Threatened?

As it turned out, Roosevelt had things almost perfectly backwards. A century of immigration has done little to dislodge the status of English in North America. If anything, its position is stronger than it was a hundred years ago. Yet from a global perspective, it is not America that is threatened by foreign languages. It is the world that is threatened by English.

What conceivable threat is there to the world that people have a common method of communication?

Other than whitey – you know, us – imposing himself again.

And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled.

Which is to misunderstand how languages work. English is splintering into those dialects as we speak. Because that’s what languages do, they’re not only methods of communication they’re markers of in and out group.

Every day English spreads, the world becomes a little more homogenous and a little more bland.

And every time some kid uses it in a slightly different manner – which some hundreds of millions of kids do each and every day – the lexicon and the language becomes more heterogenous and diverse.

Blimey, anyone would think we’ve not already seen Latin become French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian (Florentine, Venezo and Sicilian at least being different languages themselves) and so on.

As usual, nothing so conservative as a lefty with a grudge.

24 comments on “Threatened?

  1. All rich countries are alike, every poor country is poor in it’s own way.

    One of the main downsides of globalisation is it makes going on holiday more boring. Take china, 20 years ago everyone was on bicycles – how cute. Now, China is just lots of big cities full of people on iphones and driving cars. We need to prevent cultures from joining together, if we would keep a reservation for elephants and safari holidays, then surely we should keep some twee villages full of people who can only speak their cute little language. They can make hats of something.

  2. Fits The Guardian narrative.

    White men are bad. White men speak English. English is bad.

  3. Significant areas of the southern US are majority Hispanophone. In S America, Spanish and Portuguese are fusing to produce Portuñol (though I’m not convinced they’re really separate languages anyway, Tim’s neighbours may disagree 🙂 )

    As you say, some Italian dialects are not mutually comprehensible (though one could say the same about Geordie and Scouse) – one of the ongoing jokes in Montalbano (which can’t really be represented in subtitles) is that Salvo’s girlfriend is Genovese, providing plenty of scope for misunderstandings with his Sicilian.

  4. Most people who learn English learn it on top of their first language. In such cases, which language is being killed?

    Until they come up with countries that abandon their native tongues to only speak English, they’re full of shit.

    Singapore might get there in 100 years, but it the places around it still speak Malay etc.

    India might get there in 500 years.

    I’ve travelled a lot of the world — 30 odd countries. Readers here will no doubt will cover most of the rest. In the vast bulk of them the average person has nearly zero English. Trying to negotiate with barbers to get the right haircut, say, descends into pointing and showing pictures — with sometimes comical results.

    Germanic northern Europe aside, who find it easy to learn a related tongue, English is for the elite.

    It’s the main language of each country that kills dialects. English isn’t killing Venetan, the standard Tuscan is. English didn’t kill Langue d’Oc, Parisian did. (And now a rural French person can actually be understood in the whole of France, which is why they do it.)

  5. C Draws: English didn’t kill Langue d’Oc, Parisian did.

    Perhaps not so much Parisian as Langue d’Oil. Amusingly, the first French grammar was written by the 15th century englishman, John Palsgrave, who warned against travelling south of the Loire for fear of the deleterious effect this could have on one’s French.

  6. The main threat to English is the gobbledygook spewed by American executives and academics, and by those benighted souls who copy them. Going forward.

  7. I think I’ve said this here before, my late missus (pbuh), although Austrian was born in Italy and used to say to me:

    “You lot might well poke fun at Mussolini for making the trains run on time, but he did one important thing. He made all Italians learn to speak Italian.”

    (she had a very posh Milanese accent, waiters in UK Italian restaurants – who are all southerners – leapt to attention when she spoke )

  8. ‘A century of immigration has done little to dislodge the status of English in North America.’

    Stupid on two accounts.

    1. Significant migration to U.S. has has only been going on since 1965, not ‘a century.’ The writer assumes. Leaving one to assume that the rest of his assertions are mere assumptions or wishful thinking.

    2. Spanish is spoken much more frequently now than 50 years ago. I hear it at least once a week from workers. Hispanics/Latinos now comprise ~17% of the population. Most are not inclined to assimilation. They don’t speak English privately, they continue to speak Spanish.

  9. Andrew C: “Fits The Guardian narrative.

    White men are bad. White men speak English. English is bad.”

    Best that then the Gladrag stop publishing in English right away.

    Regardez vous Le * Tuteur?

    * Its neutral–not male or female–so nothing changed there. It has “tut” in it which is a language in itself for womiccumalobus trash everywhere and EU to represent leftist treason.

    How very apt.

  10. Pingback: Italian, but not as we know it | White Sun of the Desert

  11. “If anything, its position is stronger than it was a hundred years ago”

    Sounds like bollocks to me.

    Evrywhere you go in America you see signs in their execrable spanish which wouldn’t have been in spanish 100 years ago.

    Mind you it’s not really spanish, compared to Castilian spanish it’s pretty rough stuff.

    And oddly enough, where you see more spanish stuff everything tends to be crappier. In my view admittedly biased as I am both white(ish) and anglo, the progressive mexicanisation of america is not making it a better place.

  12. Of course the articl;e is closed to comments that would point out the author’s schoolboy howlers – Hebrew was never a dead language even when Aramaic was used for day-to-day conversation; Hindi is not multi-national, Latin was a universal language comparable to English today, Arab spread through conquest, not through becoming a sacred language (that dollowed the conquest), people making fun of accents is not limited to native American-English speakers looking down on Poles – it was traditional to make fun of Irish accents (especially by Irish comedians) and I used to have fun poked at my “public school”/”BBC English” accent in my working-class town.
    Anyone who writes for the Grauniad *must* be a victim if he was treated the same way as me because …”reasons”

  13. I’ve definitely observed English encroaching here in the last twenty years. “Full” is now an adjective/adverb in common use (meaning complete/completely or conveying intensity: está full lloviendo/it’s raining hard). A local department store chain was advertising “Back to School” bargains recently, and people go to “happy hour” and throw “baby showers”. A percolator is known as a “coffeemaker”. Apparently, though, it was noted how many calques and loan words had crept into Costa Rican Spanish as far back as 1893, so this is not a recent effect.

  14. BiCR, my son had a Spanish language class professor who smacked the class one day for translating American idioms in to Spanish. The class face palmed. “I smell a rat,” etc., obviously makes no sense when translated directly to Spanish.

  15. The metric system covers all the world ( maybe 3 exceptions ). Mathematical notation and the rules of professional football are almost universal. I’m prepared to bet, but you’d never be paid out, that prime numbers and exponential growth exist as concepts on other planets. Four wheels on a car, two on a bike. All that DNA twisted in just one direction.
    But when some lefty notices the advancement of American-English as the language of commerce and that it may eventually become universal, then something must be done. Yes, get out of the way.

  16. @dearieme aficionado

    @Bongo
    I can conceive of a universe in which gravity follows an inverse cube law. But I can’t conceive of a universe in which 7 is not a prime number.

  17. CM: It would be a pretty boring universe. Planetary orbits wouldn’t be stable, for one thing. The inverse-squareness comes out of there being three large spatial dimensions. The Calabi-Yau manifold might curl up differently somewhere else, I guess.

    Gamecock: there are lots of near-direct calques and lots of phrases that are completely unalike. For example, you can sleep like a log (dormir como un tronco), but attention is put (poner) rather than paid (pagar). The trick is knowing which is which.

  18. @ BiCR
    That’s because your universes only have three dimensions. One doesn’t need to be Douglas Adams to imagine universes with four or five dimensions (or two)

  19. We don’t know why there are exactly three large spatial dimensions (and six or seven small ones if M-theory is right). But if there weren’t we wouldn’t be here to see it, and none of our physics would hold. Can you even cook up stable atoms in four dimensions? I don’t know, but if you could they would look nothing like atoms in our universe. Indeed one doesn’t need to be Douglas Adams to imagine such a universe. One needs to not be Douglas Adams; he had a B.A. in Eng. Lit., which rendered him utterly unsuited to imagine a universe with d ≠ 3. You’d be better off asking Kip Thorne or Leonard Susskind.

  20. @ BiCR
    Of course most of them would be stable in their own universe – they just wouldn’t look like ours and the three-dimensional photographs of them would not look like the corresponding atoms in our universe.
    Douglas Adams’ BA in English Literature qualified him to talk about English Literature but didn’t *disqualify* him from anything: it used to be common for someone to read Law because he had ‘A’s at ‘A’ level in Greek, Latin and Ancient History or French, German and English.

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