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Tom Mazanec
2018-Dec-17, 06:32 PM
A little while ago, I was reading some library books speculating on the future. One book suggested English of the 22nd Century would be as different from ous as ours is from Middle English. It would take language features from all the world's languages.
Does this seem plausible to any of you with linguistic background?

Delvo
2018-Dec-17, 08:58 PM
I think not.

1. English changed A LOT in that particular span, giving modern Englishers a distorted view of how quickly languages change in general. Most of the time, most don't change that fast, so it's usually more realistic to expect them not to.

2. There's no sign of anything in particular to make language evolution be faster than usual now; if anything, almost-universal literacy might be slowing it down.

3. A bunch of that rapid change in English was French's fault, but nothing noteworthy happened to French at the same time. The position that English is in now is more like the position that French was in back then.

4. If it were going to happen, it should have already begun happening. But not many words, and as far as I can tell zero grammatical elements, have actually been adopted into English since Colonialism, other than words related to specific things that English-speakers weren't exposed to before, like "sushi" and "jaguar". The kind of change that's been proposed here would require that foreign words invade our vocabulary not just in larger numbers but also to a deeper level, taking over for some of the routine everyday ideas that we already have words for, like "wheel" or "hot/cold" or "sleep/wake" or "chair" or "talk/listen". I can't say there are no examples of such a thing happening at all (such as the possibility that "okay" might be of African origin), but cases like that are certainly in rather short supply. Worse yet, we have another example of a similarly worldwide language that's been in that position for a bit longer (Spanish), so it should have been a bit ahead of English in this process of accelerated change if being a worldwide language did indeed cause that, and it isn't.

5. Even in cases where we can say it's happened in certain places, it didn't spread beyond those places to the rest of the English-speaking world. For example, there's a lot of non-English influence in Jamaican "English", to an extent that can make Jamaicans hard or impossible for outsiders to understand, but only Jamaicans talk that way, not the rest of us. It's hard for innovations from one place to disseminate to the rest of the territory when the territory is so big and has so many other potential sources of competing innovations. A more typical and predictable result from this kind of scenario would be, if not a relative shortage of change overall, different local changes causing fracturing into distinct dialects/languages/pidgins/creoles rather than all of them somehow pushing the whole in one direction or another together. (And Spanish and English have both become components of several pidgins & creoles apiece.)

profloater
2018-Dec-17, 09:23 PM
The ubiquitous electronic sharing homogenises language more than written words ever could. But equally new uses from billions of second language English speakers must make a difference. Added to that regions that want to differentiate emphasise accent changes deliberately. Which trend wins? English almost splits into a standard international form and a host of regional variations, so it would depend where you are listening.

DonM435
2018-Dec-18, 04:27 AM
Yes. You can watch a 1930s movie in English, and not need a translation, despite a difference of 80-odd years.

A 1930s' English-speaker might have to make some adjustments to listen to us, but I'd guess that ant intelligent one could adapt readily.

Trebuchet
2018-Dec-19, 08:21 PM
Yes. You can watch a 1930s movie in English, and not need a translation, despite a difference of 80-odd years.

A 1930s' English-speaker might have to make some adjustments to listen to us, but I'd guess that ant intelligent one could adapt readily.
I don't know, are they that smart? Sorry, I had to make a joke!

George
2018-Dec-19, 08:27 PM
That ant funny.

Will the prolific use of pictures diminish articulate communication. Also, what percent of acronyms will be acronyms for acronyms? IOW, will brevity trip us?

Nicolas
2018-Dec-20, 10:42 AM
The ubiquitous electronic sharing homogenises language more than written words ever could. But equally new uses from billions of second language English speakers must make a difference. Added to that regions that want to differentiate emphasise accent changes deliberately. Which trend wins? English almost splits into a standard international form and a host of regional variations, so it would depend where you are listening.

And then there are also many cases where the English is the same, but the meaning is different because of cultural reasons.

"Tomorrow" in India often doesn't mean "tomorrow", it means "not today".
"Yes" for some Japanese doesn't have to mean "I agree", it can also mean "I don't agree but I understood what you said".

I don't want to go all existential :) but the communication is the meaning of the language, not just the language itself.

Swift
2018-Dec-20, 02:16 PM
"Yes" for some Japanese doesn't have to mean "I agree", it can also mean "I don't agree but I understood what you said".

That seems to be true for a lot of non-native speakers of English. And not even "I understand", but "I have heard what you said". I have had multiple conversations where the response was "yes", "yes", "yes", and it was clear they didn't understand any of it.

Gillianren
2018-Dec-20, 02:58 PM
I've had that conversation with a few native speakers who just weren't listening!

Swift
2018-Dec-20, 04:27 PM
I've had that conversation with a few native speakers who just weren't listening!
Yes

;)

Chuck
2018-Dec-21, 01:48 AM
"Yes" sometimes means "I disagree with you but think you'll stop talking sooner if I don't argue with you."

profloater
2018-Dec-21, 11:21 AM
The reply “i am sure you are probably right” is super diplomatic but legally includes a zero probability.

Jim
2018-Dec-21, 04:58 PM
"Yes" sometimes means "I disagree with you but think you'll stop talking sooner if I don't argue with you."

I try that with my wife. Doesn't work.