The Web of Language

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  • Resistance may be futile: Are there alternatives to Global English?

Comments Sep 23, 2011 11:41 pm

Proto-Indo-European was never a world language: it was just one language out of hundreds spoken on the steppes of the Black Sea 5000 years ago. It was its speakers' comparative advantage in the use of horses, and a lot of luck, that led to its progeny being so widely spoken today.

Reply to at 11:41 pm Sep 26, 2011 7:16 pm

I had similar doubts about the claim that proto-IE was a world language. It's also doubtful that it was a single language rather than a cluster of related languages. In any case, as suggested by the dispersal of European populations over the past half-millennium,it was apparently no longer proto-IE by the time the Germanics had reached northern Europe and then proceeded to colonize England. Nor was it when the Romans ruled the circum-Mediterranean world or the even when the Greeks did before them. In a different vein, there's a twist to the rise of Japan and now China as world economic powers. They believe in using the buyer's language, perhaps contributing to the spread of English as the most important language of the United States and the British Commonwealth. Thanks for the wonderful article, Dennis.

Reply to at 7:16 pm Sep 29, 2011 10:26 pm

How about "California Standard English" as the world standard? The relatively "accent-less" English spoken on the west coast of the United States. My rationale for this idea is that this is the dialect of English spoken for the most part in the movies. Hollywood is certainly a driver of world-wide culture and language. I lived in Australia some time ago and when I visited a "petrol bowser" I accidentally broke the little glass globe on the side of a gas pump. I apologized to the attendant and offered to pay and he said, "Its arright, Mayte. They're a dime a dozen." Several miles later I realized that they don't have "dimes" in Australia. I actually went back and asked him where he got the word and he said, "donno, Mayte. Mebee I heard it in the movies."

Reply to at 10:26 pm