English can be seen as - A) world lingua franca, which will become a positive force for global unity or B) A 'monstrous weed', reaching out and strangling all other indigenous languages and cultures in its path. Discuss

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         Discussion of the tension between these two views:                 English can be seen as,        

         A/ world lingua franca, which will become a positive force for global unity     or
        B/  A 'monstrous weed', reaching out and strangling all other indigenous languages and cultures in its path.        

An attempt at a full discussion of this title can only ever take place on a superficial level if it is to be confined to the usual word limit of an essay. In order to understand the role ,,of the English language in the world today and its possibilities in the future, then we must look to the past to examine critically how it has developed. We will be returning to the forces which cause language to shift, change and develop: the social; economic; political and the technological.  In linguistic terms, it is really helpful if we try to see these forces both diachronically and synchronically. I believe that we will ultimately see that the majority of these forces and factors are out of the control of one nation; that occasionally, world councils or organisations have a go at manipulating language development but 1 am convinced that such attempts are, in the end, futile. Language seems to grow and develop in an autonomous way, pulled about by an array forces. There are deliberate uses through marketing and advertising but the eventual consequences are rarely considered or predicted. Language development is a bit like chaos theory in this respect: a satellite dish...an advert...a TV programme...a pop singer in a range of countries and suddenly new films of language occur - no one has consciously set out to create them, they just happen. Like many late 20th century debates, this essay title has no glib or black and white answer.  I  agree with David Graddol's conclusion, that it really depends on your point of view. The English language is simultaneously,

“ making the world a more homogenous place and it is making English more diverse in its forms, functions and cultural associations." [p216].  


        While English is part of the decline of other languages; economic globalisation is perhaps the. real threat to other cultures and languages.   It will also be seen that English does have a positive effect too - but ! will explain these ideas later. My discussion will be split into three parts: an analysis of the factors causing the English language to spread alongside a global culture; a discussion as to whether or not English poses a threat to other languages and cultures and, finally, seeing in what ways English is both becoming homogenous and diverse.

Non-linguists understandably have a more synchronic awareness of English language growth and development and will see real spread as caused mainly by the events of this century. I think that we have to go back a little further. lf we look at the European Renaissance and the beginning of people's attempts to understand and shape their world, we can see that the Latin language was on the wane, perceived to be an elitist language of power unsuitable for new areas of knowledge. The search was on for a unifying universal language and English was considered because. ironically, it was thought to be marginal and would remain so. Texts of ,the time are a testament to this view: “An essay towards a Real Character and a Philosphical Language,” 1668,  John Wilkins.

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Our diachronic gaze will also reveal that French was assuming dominance in Europe until the momentous events of the French revolution and the British industrial revolution. It is moot at this point to leap forward to the present and consider the words of David Crystal on the OU video number eight, who emphasises power saying that,

"Language is on its way to becoming a world force when it follows the economic, social,

cultural, political and military fortunes of its mother country…. English found itself in the

right place at the right time."

This serendipitous feature of English globalisation is ...

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