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What kinds of development could impede the future growth of English?

A significance change in the balance of

power, political, economic, technological or cultural.
The rejection of English
Could be a strong reaction against continuing to use the language of the former colonial power. E.g. Malaysia,
in 1967, disestablished English as a joint official language.
Economic arguments which might persuade a country to reduce its investment in the English language.
The need for intelligibility and the need for identity often pull people and countries into opposing directions.
Contrasting attitudes: the US situation
The USA has come to be the dominant element in so many of the domains identified in earlier chapter so that
the future status of English must be bound up to some extent with the future of that country.
The power which has fueled the growth of the English language during the 20th century has stemmed from
The USA contains nearly four times as many mother-tongue speakers of any other nation.
It has been more involved with international developments in the 20th-century technology than any other
It is in control of the new industrial (that is electronic) revolution.
It exercises a greater influence on the way English is developing worldwide that does any other regional variety
-- often of course, to the discomfiture (uneasiness) of people in the UK< Australia, NZ, Canada, and South
New Englishes
No one can now claim sole ownership of English.
There is now way in which any kind of regional social movement, such as the purist societies, can influence the
global outcome.
The number of L1 speakers in the inner circle countries is about the same with L2 speakers in the outer circle
There are probably already more L2 speakers than L1 speakers.
There is an inevitable consequence that the language will become open to the winds of linguistic change in
totally unpredictable ways.
It was partly a matter of honour ‘as an independent nation…to have a system of our own, in language as well as
government’ (Webster, in Crystal, 2003:142).
Many distinctive forms also identify the Englishes of the other countries in the inner circle: Australian English,
NZ English, Can. English, SA English, Caribbean English, and within Britain, Irish, Scots, and Welsh English.
There is an English variety called South Asian English (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka).
There is a type of English of former British colonies in West Africa, in East Africa, in the Caribbean, and in parts
of south-east Asia, such as Singapore.
These new Englishes are somewhat dialects on an international scale applying to whole countries or regions.
Dialects emerge because they give identity to the groups which own them.
The drive for identity was particularly dominant in the second half of the 20th century when many countries
became independent and joined the UN.
English can become an alternative if there are so many competing languages to become the national language,
e.g. in Nigeria (500 languages).
With new institutions, came new ways of talking and writing; indigenous words became privileged.
A locally distinctive mode of expressions emerged, and in some cases began to be recorded, in the form of
regional dictionary projects.
Most adaptation (word-formations, word-meanings, collocations and idiomatic phrases) in a New English
relates to vocabulary (lexical creation).
The linguistic character of new Englishes
The linguistic character of New EnglishesSeveral of the ‘New Englishes’ of the past have been well studied--
notably AmE and AusE--but the way the language has evolved in settings where most people are native
speakers is likely to be very different from the way it will evolve in settings where most are non-native
Other domains
The future of English as a world language
Language is an immensely democratizing institution. To have learned a language is immediately to have rights
in it. You may add to it, modify it, play with it, create in it, ignore bits of it, as you will.
E.g. Some Maori words and (the occasional Maori grammatical feature, such as the dropping of the definite
article before the people name Maori itself) have been used in NZ English.
The local words begin to be used at the prestigious levels of society -- by politicians, religious leaders, socialites,
pop musicians, and others.
Using local words is no longer seen as slovenly (careless) or ignorant, within a country; it is respectable; it may
even be ‘cool’.
The next step is to move from national to international levels.
An English family of languages?
English is likely to be multidialectism or could become multilingualism?
Is it going to fragment into mutually unintelligible varieties?
The need for identity VS the need to be intelligible?
What if a community wishes its way of speaking to be considered a ‘language’? Do they have the political
power to support?
To have a variety:
1st, to have a community with a single mind about the matter;
2nd, to have a community which has enough political- economic ‘clout’ (informal influence/power) to make its
decision respected by outsiders with whom it is in regular contact (e.g. Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, Gullah--
the Gullah are a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia in the southeastern
United States)
Ebonics--a blend of Ebony + phonics -- proposed for the variety of English spoken by African Americans (Black
Vernacular English or African-American Vernacular English was denounced by people from across the political
and ethnic spectrum despite its noble intentions behind the the proposal (pp.179-180)
A unique event?
There has never been a language so widely spread or spoken by so many people as English.

The balance between intelligibility and identity is especially fragile, and can easily be affected by social change,
such as swing in immigrant policy, new political alliances, or a change in a country’s population trends.

Because there are no precedents for languages achieving this level of use, we do not know what happens to
them in such circumstances.

What happens to a language when it is spoken by many times more people as a second language or foreign
language than as a mother tongue?
If English does one day go the same way as Latin and French, and have less of a global role, the next languages
to rise (the potential of Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Hindi/Urdu) is highlighted by Graddol (1998: 59, cited in
Crystal, 2003: 10).

Speculation to be made:
It may well be the case that the English language has already grown to be independent of any form of social

There may be a critical number or critical spread of speakers beyond which it proves impossible for any single
group or alliance to stop its growth, or even influences its future.

As we have seen, even the current chief player, the USA, will have decreasing influence as the years go by,
because of the way world population is growing.

In 500 years’ time, will it be the case that everyone will automatically be introduced to English as soon as they
are born or conceived?

If this is part of a rich multilingual experience for our future newborn, this can only be a good thing.

If it is by then the only language left to be learned, it will have been the greatest intellectual disaster that the
planet has ever known.

If there is a critical mass, does this mean that the emergence of a global language is a unique event, in
evolutionary terms? It may be that English, in some shape or form, will find itself in the service of the world
community forever.