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February 15, 2005

Comments

dearieme

I understand that "shark" is the only word in English that comes from Mayan.

Jim Doyle

This shows how an imperial language can spread by means other than overt domination and coercion. It is probably a common occurrence, even when a language enters a region because of colonialism, as in India. English is spreading like the flu in India because 1) it pays, and 2) it is neutral, neither Dravidian not Indo-Aryan. This is really why English won out in the US. It wasn't only due to the founder effect of initial English settlement, but also it was the one language immigrants could use in places where there were no ethnic English Americans at all.

It is good to see another stream of new English speakers adding their language intuitions to the mix; we always gain by that. Paradoxically, the traditionalists gain too, since it means that the language will not be swamped so easily by an Indian adstrate. The more adstrates, the better. All these adstrates will tend to cancel each other by the same mechanism I mentioned above; new speakers end up defaulting to the exisiting standard.

By the way, the Mongols have the same good reason to avoid Chinese as Russian. They have been resisting assimilation into the Borg for going-on 2,000 years and a preference for English is just a new weapon.

Abiola Lapite

"the Mongols have the same good reason to avoid Chinese as Russian. They have been resisting assimilation into the Borg for going-on 2,000 years and a preference for English is just a new weapon."

That was one additional reason I suspected was working in the mix, but I refrained from mentioning it because I couldn't find anything in the article to support it. I'm sure it has to be a factor, even if Mongolian officials won't mention it for fear of upsetting the big brother to their south.

dearieme

How will use of English as a lingua franca change pronunciation in its home islands, if foreigners are to understand us? Towards something like Canadian/midWestern US, perhaps? Or just towards those British accents where consonants are clearly delivered (e.g. "r" and "l"), where vowels tend to be pure rather than diphthongs and where speech uses rhythm and pitch to add clarity and emphasis. Hence, I speculate, the rise of Scots and Irish accents on the TV?

Jim Doyle

"How will use of English as a lingua franca change pronunciation in its home islands, if foreigners are to understand us? Towards something like Canadian/midWestern US, perhaps?"

Foreigners will do whatever it takes to understand us if there is a good enough reason. No variety of any langugae is inherently too strang e for a foreigner to learn. But North American Standard deviates form Esuary English towards Welsh in the western part of Britain, the source of a lot of English migration to America, and towards Irish and and Scottish pronunciations. Those already are the pronunciations of the "home islands". The first big wave of non-British English-learners were African slaves, and they imitated the English they heard pitch-perfect. (Most were already accomplished second and third language speakers, so they had a head start.)The same goes for the next wave, the quarter of the US population that is German.

Reference the Mongols' preference for English, the same thing may be going on Mexicans in the US. A very large proportion of the flow of Mexicans in the western US is from southern states where Spanish is not typically the mother tongue. It suits these people very well to learn English. They have NO loyalty to Spanish in the first place, and English gives them an economic advantage that Spanish cannot confer, and a psychological freedom from Spanish cultural dominance. So much for all the hysteria about Spanish overrunning the US.

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