AD's English Literature : English As A World Language

Friday, January 6, 2012

English As A World Language


Key Facts:
  • English is the second most spoken language in the world, next to China.
  •  300 million native speakers and 300 million  second language users ,100 million users as a foreign language.
  • There is extensive use of English in the field of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism
  • The official or co-official language of over 45 countries .
English is a West Germanic language related to Dutch, Frisian and German with a significant amount of vocabulary from French, Latin, Greek and many other languages.From the vantage point of history, English had so humble a beginning that at first it would scarcely merit the honor of being the literature language of even an Englishman of some renown. Shakespeare wrote for a speech community of about six million peoples, that it was not thought to be of much account by the rest of Europe, and that its was entirely unknown to the rest of the world. Milton, the English poet of epic fame, was only the Latin secretary of Cromwell, for Latin was then the language of diplomacy. The only other important language was French which was the accepted language of culture. John Locke, the celebrated English philosopher commented that ‘English was the language of the illiterate vulgar’. But today the scenario has been entirely transformed and the English language rules roost over almost any other significant language, be it oriented like Chinese or Hindi, or  Russian and French.Today, English is truly an International language used in more countries as an official language or as the main means of international communication than any other language. The phenomenal gain in importance is neither accidental nor ephemeral, for it is the consequence of a number of factors – numerical superiority, geographical distribution, political and commercial clout and a host of intrinsic merits of the language itself.
English is one of the many claimants for the position of a world language. Numerically the claim of Chinese, spoken by maximum number of people of the world is apt to count more that English. But its drawback is that it is confined within a particular geographical area and that for from being any one language it is a collection of more than seventy dialects, seem to counterbalance its claim. Next, to Chinese there is Russian. As socialism seems to outlive all other “isms” and Russia is a country where it is ensconced and practiced most effectively, the claim of Russian as prospective world language is not easy to dismiss. Linguist like D.A. Jaslarsky traced the succession of language to the succession of social systems and that “Latin was the language of the ancient world, French of feudal epoch, English of capitalism and Russian is the world language of socialism. But Russian, too, is limited to one continent and hence can be safely passed over.
English on Rock
English, however, has the widest circulation, spoken and used as official language by men and women round the globe, especially in the countries which were British colonies. Hence it is likely to become ‘in a natural unforced way’, as Galsworthy thinks, “the single – inter – communicating tongue”. R.E. Zachrisson endorses this opinion. “English has the strongest for the world languageship seem to materialize because it has some inherent merits by virtue of which it can easily crow over its unsuccessful rivals. First, Baugh points out, it has a curiously mixed vocabulary. Having Germanic as its parent language it shares its vocabulary with all other Teutonic language like Dutch, Norwegian etc. Also having been under the yoke of the Romans and the French more than half of its vocabulary had come from French and Latin sources. Secondly, it absorbs and assimilates any foreign word with board catholicity. For example ‘Samovar’ from Russian ‘Apartheid’ from South Africa, ‘ping – pong’ from Chinese, ’boomerang’ or ‘kangaroo’ from Australia, ‘Gherao’ from Bengali have been assimilated beyond normal recognition. Thirdly, the loss of in flexional and declensional endings has made English more analytical language, the tense; the nominative and the verb have been synthesized into one word ‘fuissen’, in English each idea is analytically expressed in terms of separate words, “I should have been”. Fourthly, English has adopted natural as opposed to grammatical gender. In German as also in Sanskrit the gender system is complex and arbitrary. ‘Monde’ is masculine, ‘Sonne' is feminine, and ‘weib’ is neuter, whereas in English gender clearly indicates the difference of sex. Above all, modern English, for simplicity, has done away with the agreement of adjectives, possessive pronouns and articles with their nouns. Thus an Englishman is at liberty to use. “My wife and children” while a Frenchman can only say, “My wife and my children”.
Endowed with the assets English is beset with certain defects which tend to counterpoise the advantages. The unwieldy and complex vocabulary having at least 50synonyms for “see” and the tongue twister intricacy of English spelling (1kδ: nl spelt as ‘colonel’) are a stumbling block for foreigners. In flexional simplicity accounts for the rigidity of syntax. While in Sanskrit the items in a sentence are mutually interchangeable without causing any semantic change, in English any such attempt, say the replacement of ‘the tiger’ causes total semantic dislocation. Cases of attributive gender, say “she” for a “ship” are quite common.
Philologist and linguists have adopted schemes to eliminate these draw – backs. Ogden and Richards have tired to limit the vast English vocabulary to 850 odd words – what they ‘Basic English’ – by teaching the learners the major pronouns – ‘he’ and ‘she’ – and standard prepositions in combination with familiar Norton verbs. Zechrisson by involving ‘anglic’, has tired to simplify English spelling on the phonetic like.
 However, it is not the richness of a language that determines its acceptability. If it were so, Greek would not have been replaced by Latin. It is the political power users, more than anything else that determines the fate of a language. Fortunately, the accidental location of the U.N.O. Head Quarters at the U.S.A has necessitated the use of American English by the delegates of different countries. America being the richest and the most militarily advanced countries in the world, the American brand of English is surely, shortly, going to gain the status of a world language, not, alas, the British brand !


Ardhendu De 

REF: WIKI, ENCARTA, IGNOU STUDY GUIDE, DANCE OF ALPHABET- S. T. HUSSEIN 

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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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