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  • Doomsday machine? Engineers devise model to predict when your language is going to die . . .

Comments Feb 17, 2008 6:51 pm

An interesting article, and you're right to point out that multilingualism is an important factor that needs to be taken into account when we look at 'competition' between languages. In parts of the world like much of Melanesia, groups of people with as few as a couple of hundred speakers have managed to maintain their languages for centuries because everyone expects to speak several languages.

There is another problem with the formula, too, though, which you've overlooked  in your otherwise excellent article. Latin never died: it just developed and split off into a whole lot of other languages including Spanish, French, Catalan and a myriad of Italian dialects. Proto-Germanic split into English and German and Dutch and many other languages. And these languages will all do the same eventually (if they're not killed off by the competition in the meantime). The signs are already here that English is doing just that: there are millions of native speakers of Indian English, which is not necessarily comprehensible to people from the US and other 'traditional' English speaking areas. As a speaker of Australian English, I find Apalachian and highland Scots pretty harfd to understand as well. Singapore and Malaysia have their own distinctive English too. Given enough time, English won't necessarily die, but it willhave turned into a lot of new languages, just as a lot of so-called 'dead' languages have done in the past.

Reply to at 6:51 pm