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.