David Crystal

We met David Crystal today and had a very interesting question and answer session with him. He’s an Honorary Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University, but has so many other commitments that take him all over the world, he rarely has time to visit.

Among the topics we discussed whether it’s possible for major world languages such as English and Spanish, to live in ‘harmony’ with minority languages. David believes that this is possible, if the minority languages are supported politically and economically, and if their speakers are determined to continue using them. He gave the example of Catalonia, where major investment in the economy has been a major factor in the strength and growth of Catalan. In other regions where investment has been mainly in language teaching and language preservation organisations, the minority languages are not doing nearly as well.

We also talking about the future of English as a global language – David believes the current dominance of English is likely to continue, that the centre of English is shifting towards those who speak it as a second or foreign language, and that a new form of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) could emerge. ELF is likely to be a simpler, formal style of English stripped of region and country-specific idioms and expressions. This is already happening to some extent. He also mentioned that English as a global language only started to be seriously discussed by linguistics about ten years ago.

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This entry was posted in Language, Linguistics.

0 Responses to David Crystal

  1. Polly says:

    I think he’s wrong about English, in the long run. I say this based on my extensive background in sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, and watching TV. I predict that Mandarin will share space on par with English as a dominant world language, along with French and Spanish.
    It already has a billion native speakers and the center of gravity of world economic power seems to be moving Eastward.

  2. xarxa says:

    one day everyone will go to bed and wake up speaking welsh the next day, and then wont everyone be surprised

  3. Lev says:

    I think ELF has already emerged on the Web.

    @Polly, the Chinese’ role in the world’s economy and culture is increasing, but as it is, they are shifting to English. For example, Chinese in mainland China taking English names might be an indication: http://www.rancuret.de/weblog/2006/12/chinese-english-names.html

  4. Polly says:

    Lev,
    I couldn’t access the site that your link pointed to. It told me I was “forbidden.”

    Too bad if that trend continues. While I support bilingualism, it strikes me that it only ever works one way – everyone else learns English while we, in the USA, learn how to say “Hello” in Spanish or German…with a really lousy accent.

  5. Lev says:

    Polly,
    I share your sentiment :-)

  6. Manny says:

    Christine Kenneally, author of The First Word, recently wrote an article on Henry Hitching’s new book that mentions Crystal. Must have been fascinating to meet him!

    Here is a link to my post on it: English and Linguistic Diversity.

    ELF reminds me a bit of the development, in the U.S, of the standard American-English accent, which came about when media outlets in different regions began training radio and television news anchors to speak in such a way that they could be easily understood by the most number of listeners in every market. It hasn’t killed the regional accent, just made the news sound a bit generic.

    As always, thanks for the thoughtful post!