Why do people preserve local languages? Cultural and economic role of English

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5.4.2 Why do people preserve local languages?

Cultural and economic role of English

An official language in 57 countries

Most in the world

2 billion people live in these countries

De facto lingua franca

90+% of EU students learn English in school

Lingua franca

A language of international communication

Usually used for quick efficient communication

Can be an extremely simple language that combines aspects of two or more others

“Language of the Franks” language used to communicate between Arab traders and Europeans (Franks) during the Middle Ages

Swahili in East Africa

Hindi in South Asia

Indonesian in Southeast Asia

Russian in the former USSR

English used centrally in international business

Impact of technology

Dominance of English may decline as translation of documents online becomes more accessible

Dialects of English

AAVE – African American Vernacular English

“Ebonics” was coined in 1973 by African-American social psychologist

Created to reference the linguistic legacy of the African slave trade

Appalacian English – distinct grammar and pronunciation

Double negatives, adding “a” to infinitives

“I ain’t going there no more”

“I was a-sitting in the stadium”

Source of regional cultural identity and pride

However, often regarded as a sign of poor education

Speakers might be bi-dialectic

Appalachian at home and modern standard English in professional contexts


Combination of French and English

Resistance to this combination in some groups

Sense of pride in French language is undermined

1635 – the French Academy begins as the definitive authority on the French language

Effort to ban Franglais in 1994 was overruled by the highest French court


Mixture of Spanish and English

Sometimes called “Cubonics” in Miami due to the influence of Cuban culture

Taipar (to type)

Textear (to text)

i-meiliar (to email)


Mixture of German and English

“Happy Birthday” is borrowed

Question Time!

How does English fit the definition of a lingua franca?

Do you think that Quebec should exist as an independent state? Why?

Spanish in the US

Important to US linguistics due to the influx of immigration from Latin America

Official documents, etc are now more commonly printed in English and Spanish

35 million speakers in the US in 2008

Preservation of Spanish is an important part of cultural identity

French in Canada

English and French are official languages

Thus Canada is a polyglot – a nation with multiple official languages

Many diverse languages present though, especially in urban areas

99% literacy rate

In Québec, French is the official language

More than 75% speak French predominantly

Due to French ancestors who arrived between the 1500s and 1700s

French in Canada

Québécois want independence for Québec

To better protect French language and culture

Have lost referenda by slim margins

Until recently Québec was one of the poorest and least-developed provinces

Politics and economics historically dominated by English-speaking minority

But pro-french movement has made French mandatory on all commercial signs, etc

French in Canada

Rising tensions between francophones and anglophones in 1970s and 80s

“phone” = voice, sound

Now more cooperation is common

Neighborhoods in Montréal were once highly segregated by language

Now more mixed

Now 1/3 of English speakers have married French speakers

Children are likely bilingual

Many new immigrants want to speak English as a lingua franca, but cannot

Even in French, discrimination due to their accents

English on the Internet

A majority of online material is in English

Early dominance of the internet (71% in 1998)

Mandarin will probably replace English as the most used by 2020

US based Google was used for 83% of searches in 2011

Second place was Yahoo at 6%

Constructed Language

A language that has been consciously devised for communication

Esperanto – A constructed international auxiliary language that incorporates aspects from many other languages

To create a universal means of communication

Lojban – a constructed language built on logic

Simple, and powerful

Exotic features that differ from any natural world language

Question Time!

What would be the main goals for a constructed language you would create?

What might be some effects of Mandarin surpassing English in terms of online presence?

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