Monday, July 7, 2008

Evolving English

This essay in Wired Magazine "How English Is Evolving Into a Language We May Not Even Understand" reminded me of how various SciFi authors such as Vernor Vinge, David Brin, and Stephen Baxter have posited such and eventuality. Vernor Vinge in "Rainbows End" called it Good-Enuf English. David Brin's "Earth" and Stephen Baxter's "Saturn" didn't really have a name for the language but hinted at its evolution. The focus of the Wired magazine article is the influence of China and the Chinese speakers on the language but there can also be a Hispanic influnence as well.

Some excerpts from the article:
"If you are stolen, call the police at once. Please omnivorously put the waste in garbage can. Deformed man lavatory. For the past 18 months, teams of language police have been scouring Beijing on a mission to wipe out all such traces of bad English signage before the Olympics come to town in August. They're the type of goofy transgressions that we in the English homelands love to poke fun at, devoting entire Web sites to so-called Chinglish. (By the way, that last phrase means "handicapped bathroom.")"

"Thanks to globalization, the Allied victories in World War II, and American leadership in science and technology, English has become so successful across the world that it's escaping the boundaries of what we think it should be. In part, this is because there are fewer of us: By 2020, native speakers will make up only 15 percent of the estimated 2 billion people who will be using or learning the language. Already, most conversations in English are between nonnative speakers who use it as a lingua franca."

"Given the number of people involved, Chinglish is destined to take on a life of its own. Advertisers will play with it, as they already do in Taiwan. It will be celebrated as a form of cultural identity, as the Hong Kong Museum of Art did in a Chinglish exhibition last year. It will be used widely online and in movies, music, games, and books, as it is in Singapore. Someday, it may even be taught in schools. Ultimately, it's not that speakers will slide along a continuum, with "proper" language at one end and local English dialects on the other, as in countries where creoles are spoken. Nor will Chinglish replace native languages, as creoles sometimes do. It's that Chinglish will be just as proper as any other English on the planet."


Anonymous said...

This is called "chinglification."
Click the following link to see a picture of what that looks like:

Marius said...

apologies, it was not my intention to be anonymous when I posted the previous comment :-)