Part 4: Question 9

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Part 4: Question 9

Post  MARCO on Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:37 am

Variations:

Oxford p.374

In 1900, for most people, English was simply English or,
more fully, either the English language or the English tongue, much as it had been
for centuries. By the 1990s, however, a great deal had changed and several new
labels had come into wide use, most notably world English, whose earliest OED
citation is 1927 (‘1927 K. MALONE in Amer. Speech II. 323/2: ‘‘He . . . warns
against a slavish conformity to the dictionary, i.e., to the prescriptions of
standard English, or world-English, as some people call it’’ ’) but which was in
fact in occasional, limited use several decades earlier. Thus, in the 1880s, the
phonetician Alexander Melville Bell published a booklet with the title ‘World-
English, The Universal Language’. However, the phrase remained rare until the
1980s, by which time it was being used to mean either all varieties of English
world-wide or a more or less standard international variety. Also in the 1980s
there emerged two radical plural forms, the Englishes and world Englishes, and in
the 1990s the phrase the English languages took a novel place alongside such longestablished
‘family’ names as the Romance languages and the Germanic languages.
The closing years of the twentieth century were therefore, at least in the study of
this language/these languages, a time of radical terminological innovation

Homogenisation:

Fennel from p.256 to 261
The industrial revolution: British colonialism clearly set the stage as the first phase of the expansion of English. The necessarily brief sketches of the development of English in various parts of the world above illustrate how English-medium instruction was a major tool both in reinforcing British colonial power on the one hand, and spreading the language on the other…….. Britain was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, as steam-engines, bridge building and large-scale manufacturing and production machinery were just some of the major technological advancements being pioneered there. Countries which needed this new industrial knowledge could access it most directly via the medium of English, and this again strengthened the position of the language internationally.

American Economic Superiority and political leadership:
Although Britain had been the greatest political, economic and industrial power in the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, by the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth century the USA had emerged out of its splendid isolation as an economic and, ultimetaly, political superpower.

American Technological domination:
The computer revolution that took over the world in the period after World War 2 and particularly in the 1980s and 1990s was spearheaded by American technology and American know-how. Consequently, the language of computer is English.

The Boom in English language teaching:
The expanding circle is of particular interest in a discussion of the global role of English because we can say that a ‘country’ recognizes and acts upon the perceived importance of English without the involvement of government. Teaching English as a second or foreign language has become huge industry all over the world in the last thirty years.

The need for a global language:
The role of standard national language was to act as a unifying force within countries (Europe).

Structural considerations:
Umberto Eco believes that apart from by historical contingency, English expanded because it is rich in monosyllables, capable of absorbing foreign words and flexible in forming neologisms,etc.



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Re: Part 4: Question 9

Post  MARCO on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:05 am

Sorry guys, j'ai oublié de mettre la question:

Over the past century, the English language has both diversified as well as beenhomogenised. Explain I) how and why it has diversified and ii) how and why it has beenhomogenised.

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Re: Part 4: Question 9

Post  Nadeau on Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:17 am

Question 9

The English language has gone through many changes over the eras and it is still changing at the moment. This text will look at how the English language has both diversified and homogenized as well as to why it went through these phases.
The way the English language has diversified over the last century is comparable to the way the Germanic language families have evolved over time. As seen in the previous tasks, the languages in the Germanic branch have evolved through contact between them and other languages. In the last task, we discussed the issue of the spread of English overseas. The main factor of the spread of English is the colonization of new territories of Britain by English-speaking people. Pioneers were sent from Britain in order to inhabit the new territories and convert people who already lived there to English and to Christianity. It is easy to see where the language contact is then. The languages such as Cherokee and Sioux in the USA and Mohawk and Kwakiutl in Canada were inferior to English but left some of their features in the English language: they had a substratum relationship with English so some of their traits influenced the language. How does this explain the diversity of English? It is simply because the languages that influenced British English, American English, and Australian English were not the same. Those languages can be either the ones which were spoken on each territory before the colonization, or the ones of the immigrants who later settled in those territories. In the last century, massive migrations waves have touched and influenced the Americas, and more specifically North America. For example, in the late nineteenth and throughout all the twentieth century, people from northern India and Pakistan migrated firstly to parts of Britain and later on to North America. There was also a massive wave of immigration from South America to the USA in the twentieth century which caused Spanish to become more and more important in the USA. Over a period of time, languages that are in contact merge or, at least, have an effect on each other. In summary, the reasons that explain the diversity of the English language are the distance between the native speaker of the English-speaking countries and the contact with other languages. And the “how” it happens is by the mean of the colonization, the contact between people and of course, with time. From an American perspective, we can also say that the physical separation from Britain, the different physical conditions encountered by the settlers, the development of political differences and the growing sense of National identity in America combined with the contact with immigrant non-native speakers of English has greatly influenced the diversity of English. One last point that is pertinent to mention relates to education. Since social mobility was very present through the period of industrialisation in America and in Britain, the English accent diverged, denoting a difference in the social status of a person as well as his level of education. The Received Pronunciation (RP) is a good example of that phenomenon. On the one hand, it expressed a difference in the verbal speech of English while, on the other hand, it set the standard of the English that was meant to become the one we know nowadays.
Now that we have looked at diversity, we will explain homogenization. One of the features that partially cause the homogeneity in the English language is time. If we look at the development of American English, what is striking about its homogeneity is the fact that it spread through the American continent in a very short period of time compared to the development of the English language in Britain. A language will face much more changes and will consequently diverge much more through its development if this phase takes place over many hundreds of years. Generally speaking, the Present-Day English (PDE) period has been influenced by many technological features. We only have to think about the Internet which promotes American culture throughout the world and, consequently, the American English language. Millions and millions of people are exposed to that variety of English and this contributes to its expansion. The industrialisation of the past few centuries and more recently the globalization that opened the boundaries to facilitate the socio-economic exchanges between countries has had a lot to do with the homogeneity of the language. People had to find a language that would suit as many people as possible in order to achieve trade with greater ease.
From another perspective, the homogeneity of English could also be linked to the two World Wars. Once again, contact among different soldiers on the European continent had some influence on the English language. The Received Pronunciation that had been taught in schools also spread through the Army and the Imperial Civil Service. However, it is a tiny influence compared to the one that the BBC has had on the spread of information during the two World Wars and in the same way, the uniformity of English. The BBC was founded in 1921, and during the Wars, it assumed enormous importance as a means of spreading information on the progress of the battles and propaganda from both sides (2, p.186). As Fennell reports, the way messages were to be delivered at the time caused a great debate according to the way it had to be pronounced. RP prevailed and the BBC became a vehicle to promote English as an international language (2, p.186). In other words, the media has had a lot to do with the homogeneity of the English language as well as the type of pronunciation used through education.
Another important point relating to the homogeneity of the language, which shares a link with technology, is culture. Indeed, culture has a big role to play in the homogenization of a language. Through culture (literature, television and radio broadcasts, etc.), language makes its way through country barriers and thus, makes it more accessible to the worldwide population. English which encompasses the American culture has spread all over the world because of the impact of its culture and the power it possesses. The printing press, one of the most important inventions ever created, led to the standardization of the language, but also to the “exportation” of it. When you consider the impact of this invention, yes, it has helped standardize English, but it most importantly helped produce millions of book copies, thus enabling the exportation of culture. For example, when Shakespeare was at the top of his game with a high level of popularity, people from surrounding countries wanted to know who he was and read the texts he wrote. Therefore, with the printing press, but also through commerce exchanges, the expansion of culture including the English language was made possible. Thus, people from other countries who had never or barely been exposed to the language could finally see what all the fuss was about (in Shakespeare’s case, for instance) and slowly begin to become accustomed with the English language.
Furthermore, through literature and other cultural means, culture and ideas brought forward through the language could be seen by worldwide populations. Therefore, the ideas formed by Shakespeare or other writers, for example, could now be read and understood by a lot of people. This not only lead to new discoveries, but also to the fact that the English culture and language were becoming more and more important and were slowly making their way into other cultures and influencing them. Today for instance, we see the American culture everywhere whether we go to Mc Donald’s or watch a dubbed version of Baywatch on television. These examples are humorous, but they do show that the English culture has become international. Through culture, commercial trade, the English language slowly but surely became the world’s lingua franca because people were able to “export” the language and illustrate the importance of their ideas and concepts, and then become the worldwide language.
To conclude, we have seen that the English language has both diversified and homogenized through the years and all of this because of many factors, such as colonization, wars, technology, and culture. All these changes have made English a rich language with a high level of importance worldwide. Even though things might change in a century or two, the English language has made its mark in the history of languages and there is no way people can not deny the importance it has on our everyday lives.
Sources:
1) Mugglestone, L. The Oxford History of English.
2) Fennell, B. – History of English , A sociolinguistic approach

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