Will a 'world language' evolve over time?

Gramm838

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#1
Sat on a bus in London today I was struck by the variety of languages I could hear, and it made me question whether, in a 100 years or so, we'll have developed a polyglot language across the connected world?

There will always be parts of the world that retain their own distinct language, but when I think back to when I was in the Army: nothing was free, it was buckshee; nothing was brand new, it was ganz neu; we didn't do laundry, we did dhobi; if you had a girlfriend, she was a bint - and a lot of those terms were used wherever in the world I served...and even in my home area of Newcastle, an older man is sometimes known as a gadje (which is a word with Persian roots I believe)

Maybe Esperantu wasn't so far off the mark after all?
 

Mirannan

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#7
Zaibatsu? (I'm re-reading a lot of William Gibson at the moment!)
Possibly, but AFAIK that word is actually Japanese.

I find it interesting that so much Army slang is a holdover from the days of the British Raj. It's been 70 years now, after all!
 

River Boy

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#8
Doubt it, but I hope the human race becomes resourceful enough for each individual to be fluent in 3 or 4 languages. This is entirely possible if there is a focus on second-language learning in the early years period, when our minds can still be trained to become fluent.

Countries like Germany have shown this to their advantage, and in many other regions, including poor countries, you'll find adults fluent in several languages. For some reason here in the UK there is no support for it from education ministers or bodies, even though we'd all have brighter prospects as a result. People who speak more than one language tend to have stronger brains in many other areas, even if they never leave their own country.
 

Mirannan

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#9
Technology is likely to be the driver of what happens in this area. English seems to be on the way to being a lingua franca for most of the globe, probably by the power of the Internet. However, many cultures would prefer to keep their own languages (as part of their cultural identity) as well.

It may well be that technology is going to solve the problem. Already demonstrated is an augmented-reality smartphone app that provides on-the-fly "good enough" translations of printed material presented to the camera; and speech-to-text conversion is getting better all the time as is machine translation. We might get Star Trek's universal translator, at least for Earthly languages, a couple of centuries ahead of time.

It's worth noting that, in the apps I've described, the heavy work is being done by supercomputers (or close to it) operated "in the cloud" by Google and its ilk. Your phone doesn't have to do all the work!

Of course, this fact leaves room for shenanigans involving (slight?) mis-translations...
 

Stephen Palmer

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#10
Languages fragment and morph so often I think it's unlikely that a global language will develop. There'd need to be a "global society" or "global culture" - unlikely imo.
 

Parson

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#11
I agree with Stephen. Real language is always changing, sometimes dramatically. I suspect that there will never be a global language that is the first language of nearly all humans, but there may be a global language that is the first and more often the second language of humanity. At this point in time English is getting closer to this. But ever in English isn't the same all over. English is southern Africa is quite different than the North American English.
 

Nick B

author Nick Bailey, formerly Quellist.
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#13
I don't mind as long as words (though of course not really words anyway) such as yolo and swag are banned. In my day if something was sick it was ill.
 

Aquilonian

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#14
... Real language is always changing, sometimes dramatically. I suspect that there will never be a global language that is the first language of nearly all humans, but there may be a global language that is the first and more often the second language of humanity. At this point in time English is getting closer to this. But ever in English isn't the same all over. English is southern Africa is quite different than the North American English.
I agree. Linguists reckon there are more extinct languages than living languages, just as there are more extinct species. Trying to prevent the evolution of languages is one of the most pointless activities. Language is organic, it evolves and adapts due to changing needs.

Some factors encourage melting together of languages, eg mass education imposed a standard variety of the language in many countries including England. There are some accents that you only hear properly among old people. International media such as American films continues the process on a wider scale, will all kinds of americanisms creeping into British English for the past 100 years or so. But if international communication broke down, then the different versions of English would begin to diverge, and in a thousand years they might no longer be mutually comprehensible.

Other factors encourage splitting of languages, eg nationalism, religion, and use of slang by in-groups. For instance, 30 years ago the language of Yugoslavia was Serbo-Croat, whereas now Serbia describes their national language as Serbian, Bosnia speaks Bosnian, etc. Many languages have been revived, Hebrew in Israel being the most obvious success.

Chinese will be a serious rival to English for the rest of this century, and the long term result may depend on the outcome of the conflict between USA and China which I think is very likely before 2100. The Chinese cannot easily switch to English, even if they wanted to, because their ideographic writing system is actually very useful for them given that the different "dialects" of Chinese are actually different languages, so that words may sound completely different if the sounds are transcribed into English script, but are represented by the same Chinese character.

Arabic will also survive for as long as Islam survives, because the Quran is said (by Muslims) to be untranslatable into other languages.

Russian will survive as long as Russia rmains a strong and assertive country. It's alphabet is well-adapted to Russian sounds, eg shch is represented by a single letter in the Russian alphabet.
 

Aquilonian

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#15
Incidentally, language evolution would be an interesting factor if interstellar travel at near-light speeds was ever attempted, enabling the crew to make journeys to distant planets lasting half a lifetime in on-board time but returning to Earth to find that 100s or even 1000s of years have passed. THey would of course find all Earth languages incomprehensible on their return. Perhaps they would have to be fluent speakers of a language that is already dead and thus no longer evolving, such as Latin, Ancient Greek, or Sanskrit? On return to Earth they could communicate only with Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Hindu priests. Unfortunately few priests are scientifically educated so they would be unable to understand the space travellers' discoveries, and might well regard them as demons if civilisation had regressed!
 

Parson

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#16
Incidentally, language evolution would be an interesting factor if interstellar travel at near-light speeds was ever attempted, enabling the crew to make journeys to distant planets lasting half a lifetime in on-board time but returning to Earth to find that 100s or even 1000s of years have passed. THey would of course find all Earth languages incomprehensible on their return. Perhaps they would have to be fluent speakers of a language that is already dead and thus no longer evolving, such as Latin, Ancient Greek, or Sanskrit? On return to Earth they could communicate only with Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Hindu priests. Unfortunately few priests are scientifically educated so they would be unable to understand the space travellers' discoveries, and might well regard them as demons if civilisation had regressed!


Parson shakes his head. Oh, what a horrible thought. (Parson reminds himself that the church has also been the savior and nurse maid of scientific endeavor from time to time.)I've read a lot of "hard" S.F. and time dilation is a common thread, but I can't recall one where the returning star farers could not communicate, but this is a very real possibility, especially if the civilization as regressed as you say. I suspect if the scientific base grows or at least holds it own, communication would be possible. Especially of the written variety.
 

Mirannan

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#17
I can think of an even worse future scenario. One in which the only language that they could communicate in was Arabic.
 

lonewolfwanderer

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#18
I think that a single world language will be a possibility, and even become a necessity. Especially when we start to colonize other planets, but then it will be more like the Language of Earth, the Language of Mars, etc.

Naturally in this sense, each world will have their own smaller communities with their own traditional languages, but in terms of a universal language I think it is quite possible that it could, and will, happen.

English is already pretty much a world language.
 

Nick B

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#19
I think it is not only likely but also necessary. It is also likely that if we do colonize other planets that a common language would remain especially if interplanetary travel and trade were prolific. There would almost certainly be sub-languages and local dialects too, much as our own languages do today.
 
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