Tongue. Language. English. ???


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Language is a social phenomenon. Therefore, it can be directly related to the history and development of the society. Society influences the development of the language, but not under the laws of the society, its development is carried out by the internal laws of language. Thus we can only wonder what would happen if there had been no such thing as language.

First of all, when we speak about historical origins of a human language, it is of great importance to differentiate between the origins of language itself and variations of forms of a language that we use today. These two issues should not be confused. There are many studies trying to find the origin of human language from ancient times. Nevertheless, there are a variety of opinions and assumptions from different perspectives such as philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, and of course linguists; and even though it was considered throughout centuries, we still have no answer supported with evidence about the origin of human language. It is the question of the same level of complexity with an appearance of humankind. Despite the complexity of this issue, many research have been done on foundations of languages that we use today. It has been argued that there are groups of related languages, so-called “family trees.” Although, we cannot speak properly about the origin of a language, from the reputable source (Ethnologue, 2005) we know that there are thirty such kinds of family trees containing 6,912 languages in the world. Unfortunately, some of these languages are on the way of elimination while some are broadening. Even though the Chinese language has the most native speakers, English language is the most preferred and used one across the world.

With the spread of literacy, the release of publications, manuals in English for teaching foreigners English slowed its modification. However, some changes have been taking place at the moment. After the start of the expansion of the British Empire in many colonies in parallel with British English, American English began to develop, Pakistani English, Australian English, and other language variations. They are distinguished from each other only in pronunciation and some minor features of grammatical construction. English is strongly becoming a part of the everyday life of modern society. There is no surprise that the English language over the last half century has become an international language in which a significant portion of the world population communicates.

According to Kachru (1985) the way how the English language outspread is with the help of migration, that is, English speakers dwelled new places, and their language became the language of that particular area. Beginning in the British Isles (Scotland, Ireland, Wales) this spread moved towards early British colonials such as America, Australia, and New Zealand. In this case, English just replaced and displaced languages used before as sense of communication. Then, English become more acknowledged through the British Empire as Britain colonized Asia and Africa. English was settled as a medium of instruction in governmental, economical spheres and schooling system so that it demonstrated the high-status position of English. Finally, despite not being a language of everyday life in some developed countries such as China, Korea, and Japan as well as in most European nations, English has become the language correlated with globalization, modernization and window to the global economic arena.

Nobody can doubt that right now English is number one language of the world. Nowadays there are about 350 million native speakers and between 400 million and 1 billion second or foreign language speakers (Graddol, 2006). If the English language, as Philip Altbach calls it, is the Latin of the 21st century, which language in your mind can be the Latin of the  22nd  century?


Ethnologue (2005) (15th edition) SIL International.

Graddol, D. (2006). English Next. London: British Council.

Kachru, B. B. (1985) Standards, codification, and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In R. Quick & H. G. Widdowson (Eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literature (pp. 11-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

3 thoughts on “Tongue. Language. English. ???

  1. Dear uaxi, your blog contains very useful information for linguists who are specialized about the history of a language and language trees. Of course I agree that English is one of the most widespread languages in the world and it is obviously correlated with globalization, modernization and window to the global economic arena. I found the comparison, made by Philip Altbach of English as it is Latin of 21st century, very strange. For as we know Latin language is out of use today. As I can not imagine that English language will not be used in the next century I posit a view that it will save its leading position worldwide.
    P.S: may be I misinterpret the comparison of English to Latin!


  2. I would suppose that the dominant language of the 22nd century will be a new language, which is out of the way we are communicating nowadays, related with telepathy. With the fast development of technology and humanity self-exloration, people are breaking their limits at very fast speed. So the new world is unfolding as we are realizing that we can communicate without usual human language and even we have ability to travel through time and space instantenously. This is just some of my thoughts about the future language, and it may looks a little bit mysterious but i believe in it!


  3. Thanks, Uaxi! (5/5) I agree with @yasawi859 that the comparison to Latin doesn’t effectively conclude your thoughtful discussion of language origin and the spread and shift of languages over time. I think you may mean that the notion of one singular, standard English is no longer possible as world Englishes grow and develop around the world. Can you clarify? Do you foresee English becoming more like a pidgin around the world? Will international academic English maintain its place as a standard in fields like politics and science?


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