Friday, March 28, 2008

Panglish and the future of English

The future of English is taking shape right now, in the mouths of billions of people who grew up speaking something else.


So ends an article about the changing English language in this week's New Scientist magazine. According to the article (which you can access if you use your college's Athens account log-in/ New Scientist subscription details), the English language is evolving at a much faster rate than ever before. The causes of this change remain broadly similar to those we always look at when we study this unit - technology, immigration, social change, the influence of the media etc. - but another major factor is the growth of English as a world language. The real drivers of change are not us - native speakers - but English speakers in China, Singapore and south America.

Linguist Suzette Haden Elgin sees two possible outcomes: "Panglish - a single English that would have dialects but would display at least a rough consensus about its grammar - or scores of wildly varying Englishes all around the globe, many or most of them heading toward mutual unintelligibility."

The article itself looks in detail at the ways in which English has developed to its current state, so it's excellent reading for anyone revising ENA5, but it also takes a longer term view about where English is going and what kinds of phonological, grammatical and semantic changes are occurring and where they might lead us.

The Daily Telegraph features a very brief article on the New Scientist piece here as well as The (spit) Daily Mail here.

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change
ENGA3 (new spec) - Language Explorations

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