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Author Topic: Should we grieve when a language either dies or is supplanted?  (Read 1094 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: October 30, 2009, 11:31:05 PM »

The death of a language is never a cause for rejoicing, but it shouldn’t be a reason to grieve either. In “The Cosmopolitan Tongue: The Universality of English,” an article he wrote for the Fall Issue of the World Affairs Journal, John McWhorter, linguist, political commentator, and Columbia University lecturer in English and comparative literature, argues that language death is ultimately “a symptom of people coming together,” of “hitherto isolated peoples migrating and sharing space.” And he says that despite the well-meaning efforts of language scholars to do so, there’s really no hope to turn back the tide with programs to revive indigenous languages.



McWhorter then asks this provocative question: “As we assess our linguistic future as a species…would it be inherently evil if there were not 6,000 spoken languages but one?” And, he asks, English having had a head start as the lingua franca of popular culture, scholarship, and international discourse, wouldn’t it be just logical for that single surviving language to be English?

Read John McWhorter's "The Cosmopolitan Tongue: The Universality of English" in the Fall 2009 issue of World Affairs now!

Read John McWhorter’s “The Cosmopolitan Tongue: The Universality of English” now!  THIS WEB PAGE NO LONGER AVAILABLE

On the other hand, in “English Spoken Here,” an article he wrote for the November-December 2009 issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Indian writer Chandrahas Choudhury, author of the novel Arzee the Dwarf and book critic for the Indian newspaper Mint, laments how globalization is changing the Indian novel not for the better but for the worse. “The use of English—which often makes the Indian novelist both writer and translator—generates major problems of language and perspective that can be off-putting for Indian readers,” he says. “In the hands of lesser writers, much of the specificity and charge of Indian life is simply lost when rendered in English, becoming paler, weaker, and more simplistic. So what readers around the world frequently find instructive, fresh, and moving about Indian novels available to them in English is often experienced by Indian readers as dull, clichéd, and superficial.”

Read Chandrahas Choudhury’s “English Spoken Here” now! THIS WEB PAGE NO LONGER AVAILABLE
« Last Edit: November 30, 2017, 12:44:48 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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