The Unsuccessful Quest For A Universal Language
Posted: 19 May 2013 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The Unsuccessful Quest For A Universal Language

NPR decides to ask a linguist how language works… refreshing.

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Posted: 21 May 2013 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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120 views and no comments yet? This must be a first.

A universal language is doomed to failure because people will communicate in whatever way they wish, not what is dictated to them.  Besides, accents vary so simply adding on a vowel to the beginning or end of a word will add chaos to confusion.

On another note, did any other Brits find Jacki Lyden hard to follow? I had to listen very carefully to her actual words and missed some bits.

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Posted: 21 May 2013 02:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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In those comments:

Human Being : It already exists, it is called English.
TOM WILLIAMS:  English is concise and precise.

Firstly ROFLMFAO@Tom Williams.

Secondsly:
Currently something like 10% of the globe speaks English, either natively or as a second language and it is not immediately clear to me that that stat is on the up. Also, the nations that are considered to be on the rise (BRICs) are low in English speakers. Surprisingly few Chinese, Russians, Brazilians speak English at all (though perhaps 15% of Indians do).

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Posted: 21 May 2013 03:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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it is not immediately clear to me that that stat is on the up

Not sure what that means. Does it mean that you’re not sure the number is rising? Or does it mean that you’re not sure the stat is accurate?

English is definitely the global language. Travel, business, global infrastructure, science, diplomacy, all communicate primarily in English. But English is far from “universal.”

A truly universal language is an impossibility. Just look at English. With just about 10% who speak it, and another 10% who have some degree of familiarity with it, it is already fractured into dialects that can be almost incomprehensible to one another. I find Indian English difficult to understand, and Singaporean English all but impossible to comprehend. (Of course, those speakers can usually code switch into a more standard register.) Any universal language would swiftly break apart as well.

Plus, I don’t know what the advantages of a universal language actually are. We get most of supposed benefits from English’s global status. What’s left are vague claims that such a language would bring world peace and other such benefits. Nice, but unlikely.

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Posted: 21 May 2013 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Not sure what that means. Does it mean that you’re not sure the number is rising? Or does it mean that you’re not sure the stat is accurate?
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Ha. Fair question. That’s an ambiguous phrase.

I meant I am not sure it is increasing.

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Posted: 21 May 2013 05:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I wrote about Okrent’s book on artificial languages here (I highly recommend it) and about “on the up and up” here (I don’t think I’ve seen the shortened form “on the up” before).

[ Edited: 21 May 2013 06:04 AM by languagehat ]
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