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Are there any indications that (global) English is going to split into different languages in the next hundred years?

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closed as not constructive by MrHen, Rhodri, Robusto, kiamlaluno, F'x May 21 '11 at 13:14

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To properly answer this question we would need working definitions of split, language, English and indication. Some of those are easy enough but I point it out because this isn't a remotely objective question yet. We can theory craft all we want, but to objectively answer this question we need a heck-of-a setup. –  MrHen May 20 '11 at 16:38
    
Fascinating question, but both possibly a duplicate and too subjective. But the current answers are somewhat objective so I don't think I'll vote to close. –  Mitch May 20 '11 at 16:45
    
@Mitch As you can tell, I have just started to ask questions here, can you tell me if you would have preferred a version that explicitly asks for examples like Tok Pisin below? –  Phira May 20 '11 at 16:51
    
I'm not sure how to reword your question; it's easier to answer well here if objectivity is possible, and questions about the future can lead to both objective and subjective answers. –  Mitch May 20 '11 at 17:07

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

If anything, I would expect the opposite to happen.

During the age of colonization many scholars predicted that the distances between English-speaking populations meant that by our times the average American would not be able to understand the average Australian, for example. What happened instead was the telegraph, and the telephone, and other advances in communication that kept far-flung speakers of English in constant contact with each other, thereby reinforcing the commonality of the language. Today, of course, we regularly exchange messages with people living on every continent, thanks to the Internet, which is likely to lead to regional variations either disappearing or being absorbed into worldwide English.

English will continue to evolve, and is likely to pick up qualities from places like India that have not historically contributed significantly to the development of the language before now, but I would not expect to see the English language fragment.

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Although, interestingly, I understand that Dutch is undergoing certain changes (such as simplification of the formal register, and assimilation of the masculine and feminine genders), which Flemish is not. Those languages also benefit from a community which is able to be in constant contact, and which are geographically very close. Accordingly, I don't think fragmentation is impossible. –  Marcin May 20 '11 at 16:26
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@Marcin: It is said that the Dutch spoken by the majority of Dutchmen and that of most Flemish speakers is diverging, though I am not sure. I, a Dutchman with a standard accent, find it easy to understand the Belgian news, but random people speaking Flemish in an informal setting will be incomprehensible to me for a large part. Then again, the same applies to many Dutch dialects from the Netherlands. It is very difficult to say whether there is general divergence going on, and even more so between which dialects/accents it is strongest. –  Cerberus May 20 '11 at 16:38
    
@Cerberus: Very interesting! –  Marcin May 20 '11 at 16:40
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I agree. I would add that English has always been quick to coin phrases and adopt words and phrases from other languages, which I think would also make it less likely to split. –  Wayne May 20 '11 at 19:02

My money would be on English becoming more affected by places like India (and perhaps china) for everyday use as another billion english speakers come online.

Traditionally English has been very happy to absorb other language influences so I don't think there will be a formal correct English and a 'street' Indo-English in the way there was latin/vulgate.

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Tok Pisin is already a descendant language of English.

In the book "The Last Lingua Franca" there was a fascinating case study of modern Tagalog (Taglish), which mixes in a lot of English, although as with all issues that aren't black and white, one could quibble if it is a form of Tagalog with English loan words, or a English dialect with Tagalog influences.

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Lingua-Franca-English-Return/dp/0802717713

Mass media, in my opinion, is really slowing down the rate of language fragmentation compared to what it was historically.

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here's a list of English-based creole languages: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-based_creole_languages –  Paul Amerigo Pajo Jan 10 at 11:45

I think it's more than just a metaphor to say languages evolve.

In that context, I would suggest the Galapagos Islands were a particularly good place for Darwin to investigate the evolution of finches.

Evolution (and more particularly speciation) occurs more often and more quickly when there's plenty of scope for populations to become disconnected.

By (more than just) analogy therefore, we can reasonably expect languages in general will become more homogeneous in the future because of increasing worldwide travel and intercommunication.

Logically, we should all be speaking Chinese in 100 years time, but because English has such a dominant position (not just on the Net), I think it will eventually become the only game in town.

I know it's always sad to lose diversity, but most Welsh people took the decision generations ago to bring their children up with English as their primary language. For the quite obvious reason that this would enhance their prospects for economic and cultural / social success.

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similarly Ireland's literary reputation is based on speaking English. If Joyce, Shaw, Wilde had written in Gaelic they would be about as well known as the Icelandic sagas. –  mgb May 20 '11 at 18:11
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Personally I think we're doing God's own work right here on EL&U by helping to promote our language at this time of flux. Maybe we can get our associates (and alter-egos) over at programmers.se to hack into and disrupt hindi.se and chinese.se if they ever appear! –  FumbleFingers May 20 '11 at 18:18
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No need, for any culture to become sophisticated it has to be able to listen to Radio4, and in order to reach full enlightenment it must play Mornington Crescent - and so must be able to speak English. –  mgb May 20 '11 at 18:21

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