By Nicholas Ostler
English is the world's lingua franca-the most generally spoken language in human background. And but, as historian and linguist Nicholas Ostler persuasively argues, English won't in simple terms be displaced because the world's language within the not-distant destiny, will probably be the final lingua franca, now not changed through another.
Empire, trade, and faith were the first raisons d'etre for lingua francas--Greek, Latin, Arabic have all held the position--and Ostler explores every one throughout the lens of civilizations spanning the globe and background, from China and India to Russia and Europe. 3 traits emerge that recommend the last word decline of English and different lingua francas. pursuits during the global in the direction of equality in society will downgrade the prestige of elites--and on the grounds that elites are the major clients of non-native English, the language will progressively retreat to its native-speaking territories. The emerging wealth of Brazil, Russia, India, and China will problem the dominance of native-English-speaking nations--thereby shrinking the overseas choice for English. at the same time, new applied sciences will let rapid translation between significant languages, enhacing the prestige of mom tongues and lessening the need for any destiny lingua franca.
Ostler predicts a tender touchdown for English: it is going to nonetheless be extensively spoken, if now not around the globe, sustained by way of America's endured energy at the global degree. yet its decline might be either symbolic and demanding, proof of grand shifts within the cultural results of empire. The final Lingua Franca is either an insightful exam of the trajectory of our personal mom tongue and a desirable lens during which to view the sweep of history.
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Extra info for The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel
To strike an analogy with British in a foreign country actions within the 17th and eighteenth centuries, the Phoenicians have been just like the servants of the East India corporation, the Greeks extra just like the settlers of the 13 Colonies in the United States. a primary clue to Greek’s linguistic virtue within the west comes from the differing destiny of the Greek colonies that have been in the meantime being tested within the east, round the Black Sea, then often called Euxeinos ‘hospitable’. * just about all of those (which coated its whole coast and feature ever on the grounds that been the sea’s valuable ports) have been based by means of a unmarried urban of the southern Aegean, Miletus—ninety in quantity, based on Pliny (Naturalis Historia v. 112), even though not more than twenty can now be positioned. regardless of retaining this nook at the Black Sea industry (and its major advertisement grip at the different significant resource of grain, Egypt, via its colony Naucratis, based within the 7th century BC), Miletus used to be a comparatively small participant in Greek politics. still, the colonies remained economically very important to Greece as a complete, and specially important to its cultural chief (and major marketplace), Athens. * but for all their confident names resembling Olbia ‘Prosperity’, Nymphaion ‘Shrine of Nymphs’, Eupatoria ‘Noble Sires,’ and Dioscurias ‘City of the Heavenly Twins’, the Greek towns on the mouths of the Dnieper and the Don remained distant outposts of Greek tradition, not anything extra. Miletus’ Greek was once Ionic; it used to be with reference to the koindialektos ‘common speak’ which might develop into the common typical from the 3rd century BC, even though this was once established such a lot heavily on Attic, the speech of Athens. even if, other than at the southern shore, in Anatolia, which after Alexander’s conquests within the 320s BC used to be to obtain non-stop Greek immigration, the Greek spoken through retailers didn't unfold round the Black Sea to develop into the vernacular. The Roman poet Ovid, who was once fluent in Greek, used to be in advert eight lamenting being condemned to profit Getic to get via in Tomoi (originally one other of Miletus’ foundations, at the western coast). Black Sea towns remained a byword for multilingualism, actually: at a lot an identical time Strabo wrote that during Dioscurias, at the japanese coast, you'll pay attention seventy tribes every one conversing a special language “because they lived scattered and unmixed, via stiff necks and wild methods. ”6 The in basic terms advertisement job around the Black Sea didn't result in the advance of a lingua-franca group there: regardless of lots site visitors, that sea by no means turned a Greek lake. during this region, the sociolinguistic results of Greek have been just like these of Phoenician quite often— a language of widespread tourists that didn't get picked up extra largely. in the meantime on the different finish of the Mediterranean, Greek used to be garnering even more effect. within the west, Greek colonists had unfold around the northern coastline, leaving the south, and the islands, to their Phoenician opponents. purely Sicily was once an exception to this, on account that Greeks additionally took over the east and heart of this island.