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LANGUAGE | The Future of English

English a
status report
Welche Bedeutung hat die englische Sprache heute noch
in der Welt?JOANNA WESTCOMBE, Sprachredakteurin
bei Spotlight, befragte dazu den angesehenen britischen
Linguisten David Crystal.

T oday, the English language and


the ways we use language gen-
erally are changing fast and for
to give us a snapshot of English in the
world today, to look back at the past
to see how the language has devel-
Foto: Christian Sinibal/Guardian

many dierent reasons: social, eco- oped, and to look ahead at the chal-
nomic and technological. We spoke lenges to its global status. What
to language expert David Crystal emerges is that when talking about
(pictured) on this topic 10 years ago language, one cannot ignore culture,
(see Spotlight 2/01). For this anniver- community, communication and
sary issue, we asked Professor Crystal above all, the process of change.
28 Spotlight 9|11
LANGUAGE | The Future of English

How did English become a global language?


A language becomes an international or global language research has been done on grammar, but we are beginning
for one reason only: the power of the people who use it. to see local usages emerge. ese have dierences that are
In the case of English, we are talking about a combination comparable to those that exist between American and
of power factors that have inuenced the language over a British English. In the US, youd say I just ate, whereas
period of 400 years political (the British Empire), tech- in the UK it would be Ive just eaten. Another example
nological (the Industrial Revolution), economic (especially is the use of the present continuous form for verbs of per-
the US), and cultural (developments such as the tele- ception in South-Asian English: I am knowing, I am
phone, pop music and the internet). All of these aspects remembering, I am seeing. Some of these changes may
developed initially through the medium of English. e become more widespread in the future. McDonalds al-
structure of the language its pronunciation, spelling, ready has a similar usage as its slogan: Im lovin it.
grammar and vocabulary is not a factor. Indeed, if you
were the god of languages and had to make a decision Can you tell us specifi-
about which one was to be global, you would probably cally how and why
rule out English on the grounds of its spelling alone. Eng- language change is in-
lish has become global despite such complications. fluencing British Eng-
lish pronunciation?
Today, there are more non-native speakers using
English than native speakers. Who are they, and Pronunciation always
why do they use English? changes, so theres nothing
surprising about accents
Of the two billion people in the world who use English, coming and going. e
only some 400 million are native speakers. e remaining most noticeable trend in
1.6 billion are speakers of English in countries where the Britain has been the emer-
language has some sort of ocial status (in India and gence of a new set of eth-
Nigeria, for example), or in countries where it is the rst nic accents reecting the
foreign language taught in schools (as in China and Ger- origins of immigrant
many). e ratio of native to non-native speakers is chang- groups. ere are around
ing as the younger generation becomes more bilingual. 300 languages spoken in
e main driving force is economic: English provides ac- London these days, so its
cess to a huge potential marketplace. But people learn a increasingly common to
language for a variety of reasons for travel, cultural un- hear English spoken with
derstanding or to deepen their literary appreciation, for
example. e commonest metaphor I hear learners use is address [E(dres] in Angriff nehmen
that English is a useful tool to enable them to do what affected: be ~ [E(fektId] betroffen sein
they want to do with their lives. appreciation [E)pri:Si(eIS&n] Wrdigung, Verstndnis
bilingual [baI(lINgwEl] zweisprachig
condemn [kEn(dem] verurteilen
This must have an effect evolve [(i(vQlv] sich entwickeln
on the English language. fraction [(frkS&n] Bruchteil
inarticulate [)InA:(tIkjUlEt] nicht fhig, sich auszudrcken
e chief eect has been lexi- initially [I(nIS&li] anfangs ( p. 57)
cal. New varieties of English lexical [(leksIk&l] lexikalisch, in Bezug auf Wrter
are primarily identied by a lingua franca Verkehrssprache
vocabulary that reects the [)lINgwE (frNkE]
literacy [(lIt&rEsi] Lese- und Schreibfhigkeit
local culture. Regional dic-
loanword [(lEUnw:d] Lehnwort
Fotos: iStockphoto; Hemera; Friedrich Stark

tionaries of Jamaican Eng- novelty [(nQv&lti] Neuheit


lish or South African English, overestimate berbewerten
for example now contain [)EUvEr(estImeIt]
many thousands of loanwords perception [pE(sepS&n] Wahrnehmung
that allow people to talk in primarily [praI(merEli] vorwiegend
ratio [(reISiEU] Verhltnis
English about local politics,
rule out [ru:l (aUt] ausschlieen
landscape, locations, food and syllable [(sIlEb&l] Silbe
drink, fauna and ora, and tiny [(taIni] winzig
much more. Relatively little
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