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The Future of English

Ottobre 2013
L’inglese diventerà il nuovo latino, dividendosi e mutando in svariati linguaggi? Risponde il linguista David Crystal.

di Mark Worden

File audio:

David Crystal
David Crystal

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

We asked linguistics expert David Crystal about the future of English. Is there a risk that it could go the same way as Latin and split up into different languages?

David Crystal (Standard British accent)

There’s clear evidence that English as a demotic street language has already begun to break up in exactly the same way that Latin did a thousand years ago. You can go to various parts of the world and go onto the streets and somebody says they’re speaking English and you don’t understand what they’re saying. And this has been the case in some parts of the world for quite a while now. Papua New Guinea, for instance, they talk Tok Pisin. It’s a pidgin language which has expanded and become the natural language for a large number of people, turning up in the written form as well. Go to Singapore and on the streets you’ll hear people speaking Singlish, Singaporian English, which is a mixture of Chinese and English and a few other things too sometimes, and, again, you don’t understand it. So here we’ve got an English family of languages, without any question, even though some of these varieties are in their early stages of development. On the other hand, if you go to Singapore, you’ll find that every one of those kids... or on the street that speaks Singlish also will be going to school, where they learn Standard English. And so what’s happened in Singapore and elsewhere is that people have become bidialectal, or bilingual almost, if you like, in English. They’re speaking two varieties of English now, the language of the street and the language of formal education. And so will English split up into mutually unintelligible languages? Yes. Will it lose its identity as a language of international intelligibility? No, because English will become diglossic, as the technical term is. Diglossia is a situation where a language is used by two varieties. You get it, classically, in Arabic, for instance, where all Arabic speakers speak the local dialect of their country, Algeria, Morocco, wherever it is, and they also all learn the language of the Holy Koran, which is a classical sort of Arabic. And so they have two varieties of Arabic, a low variety and a high variety, as it’s called. Same thing happens in German, where you get, say, Swiss German and Standard German. It used to happen in Greece as well, with two varieties of Greek, and so on. It certainly happens in Italy, where you’ve got Standard Italian and the language of the dialects up and down the country. So... and many people in Italy operate happily with their local dialect and Standard Italian. Well, English is going that way too, and around the English-speaking world you see people who switch from one variety into the other, using the low variety as their language of identity and the high variety as the language of international and national intelligibility. And this, I see, is the future of English.

(David Crystal was talking to Mark Worden)

Per leggere l'articolo "BBC English An Endangered Language" di David Crystal pubblicato su Speak Up di ottobre 2013, clicca qui


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