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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115? 578

An anonymous reader writes: Throughout human history, different languages have emerged and died, waxed and waned in relative importance, evolved, and spread to new locales. An article in the Wall Street Journal considers what languages the world will speak a hundred years from now. Quoting: "Science fiction often presents us with whole planets that speak a single language, but that fantasy seems more menacing here in real life on this planet we call home—that is, in a world where some worry that English might eradicate every other language. That humans can express themselves in several thousand languages is a delight in countless ways; few would welcome the loss of this variety.

Some may protest that it is not English but Mandarin Chinese that will eventually become the world's language, because of the size of the Chinese population and the increasing economic might of their nation. But that's unlikely. For one, English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort. We retain the QWERTY keyboard and AC current for similar reasons. ... Yet more to the point, by 2115, it's possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today's 6,000. Japanese will be fine, but languages spoken by smaller groups will have a hard time of it."
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What Language Will the World Speak In 2115?

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  • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:19AM (#48723295) Homepage

    Cardassian of course

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • The Quebec Language Police will maintain the purity of the French race in Quebec. Especially at salad bars. [nationalpost.com]
    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      Vas chier mon tabernacle! Attends que te case le geule en 2!

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @06:12AM (#48724053) Homepage

      French has a reputation for linguistic preservation efforts, but it doesn't really seem to take. Television is télévision. Telephone is téléphone. Electricity is électricité. Etc. You know what these words are in Icelandic? Sjónvarp, sími, and rafmagn . Go to Wikipedia and look up random modern technical words from different fields (ideally ones not named after a person, since that's cheating) and browse over the language bar on the left to see what they're called in French vs. Icelandic (or any other languages). For example, photon, integral, mitochondria, polymer, autism, transistor, seismograph, hippocampus, supernova, and tyrannosaurus, to pick some. According to Wikipedia, in French they're photon, intégral, mitochondrie, polymère, autisme, transistor, sismographe, hippocampe, supernova, and tyrannosaurus. In Icelandic they're ljóseind, heildun, hvatberi, fjölliða, einhverfa, smári, jarðskjálftamælir, dreki, sprengistjarna and grameðla, respectively.

      Why does French have this reputation for protecting their language so much? It sure doesn't look that way. Maybe the difference is with common words? For example, Icelandic has a problem with people using English as slang in everyday speech. For example, "hæ" and "bæ" as casual greetings ("hi", "bye") are so common that they're pretty much embedded into the language. Does French do this sort of thing too? Maybe they're better about that. But at least in terms of new words coming into the language, I just don't see where they get this reputation from.

      (It should be noted that not only does Icelandic come up with native-based words for technical terms, but we actually use them. We actually say "tölva", not computer, "sjónvarp", not TV, "rafmagn", not electricity, etc. If there's a technical term that a person doesn't know the proper Icelandic for then they use the English, but in maybe 90% of cases, once the proper Icelandic for a word becomes widely known, it actually gets used) (there are of course those 10% exceptions where nobody liked the proper term so most people don't use it, of course... ;) Pizza / flatbaka being a good example)

      • by geantvert ( 996616 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @06:48AM (#48724153)

        Most of those words use latin or greek root, prefixes and suffixes. It is not surprising that those words are used almost unchanged in French since this is a latin language. Generally speaking, French and English are very close. They have been sharing a lot of words since centuries.

        Islandic is probably very different because of the lack of latin or greek references. For example, a french speaker will immediately associate the greek prefix 'hippo' to horses (as in Hippodrome, Hippopotame, ...). I do not speek Islandic but I suspect that this is not the case in that language so it make more sense to invent new words in islandic.

      • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @07:31AM (#48724259) Journal

        You miss the fact that english has a lot of french / latin rooted words.
        So your complaint about telephone, television and electricity makes no sense at all as it is the opposite way around: the english use the same word as the french here.
        Same for the other examples you picked, either they are so scientific, like hippocampus, that it is hard to figure who adapted whom, I would say both languages simply adapted the latin "medical" form, or they are obviously the same in both languages.

        Why does French have this reputation for protecting their language so much? It sure doesn't look that way. First as mentioned above, you look at it from the wrong angle (by picking bad examples, french words that got adopted by english ;D ). And secondly, french is not spoken by many on the planet. So why should they not protect their language? The Icelanders do the same if you have not noticed yet ...

        Computer in french is "Calculateur" btw.

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:30AM (#48723333)
    • Re:Chinglish (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:42AM (#48723379) Homepage Journal

      I often wonder how realistic that possibility really is. Lots of Chinese people learn English, but very few English speakers learn Chinese. That has led to a one-way lingual exchange exporting English to China.

      But to create a Chinglish-style creole in the future, the lingual export would need to be bidirectional. English speakers would need to be learning Chinese at at least a comparable rate that Chinese speakers are learning English.

      One could argue that with China's increasing economic prominence that it may some day be necessary for non-Chinese people to learn Chinese, but even as the #2 superpower that still has yet to happen.

      As such, I'd wager that English as it currently exists will continue to dominate in 100 years. The fact that it's the first language of several major countries and virtually everyone worldwide learns English as a second language is a trend that shows no signs of stopping.

      • Re:Chinglish (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RR ( 64484 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:11AM (#48723489)

        I see plenty of English speakers learning Chinese. A lot of them never learn "proper" English. But I work in San Francisco with the children of Chinese immigrants. Even the elected mayor is a child of Chinese immigrants, now.

        Going back to the OP, the current entrenchment is no guarantee. 100 years ago, everybody who wanted to do science learned German. 300 years ago, everybody learned French. 600 years ago, everybody in the West learned Latin. 2000 years ago, everybody in the Mediterranean learned Greek. For most of that time, everybody in China learned Chinese.

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        Plus, there isn't exactly a "Chinese" language, there are different dialects all over the country, and people from different regions can't exactly communicate with one another in their native tongues.

        Russia is fairly unique in that they managed to push a fairly uniform Russian language across its entire landmass, and to a lesser extent over the USSR. It would be interesting if China could manage to follow suit, but they have orders of magnitude more population to do it with. Of course, the former USSR sat

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          There is one official language of China. There are some regional dialects, but the schools teach Mandarin only, and anyone who learns the local dialect, will always be fluent in mandarin as well. Parents generally insist on that, as otherwise, employment outside your region would be impossible.
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        But to create a Chinglish-style creole in the future, the lingual export would need to be bidirectional. English speakers would need to be learning Chinese at at least a comparable rate that Chinese speakers are learning English.

        The Chinese are big enough to essentially make their own grammar and words, just like US English is similar but not quite the same as UK English. If they start interspersing Chinese words some of them might stick instead of or in addition to the existing word as we read "Chinese English" words and use google. International English is possibly already diverging a bit from the UK/US/AU varieties.

      • Re:Chinglish (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:51AM (#48723633)
        Mandarin as a language is not that hard to learn. It's fairly regular and very analytic (almost no word changes), even tones are not that hard to get right after you practice a little. I was able to pick up enough of Mandarin from my girlfriend in several months to be able to ask for directions in China.

        However, _written_ Chinese is unlearnable. Simply forget about it. You really need to memorize thousands of symbols just to be able to read an everyday newspaper. Writing is just as hard - imaging having to learn several completely new scripts (Russian, Greek aaand Arabic) at the same time.

        Phonetic spelling using one of many Romanization schemes is also problematic because Chinese is very homophonic - lots of words sound exactly the same.
        • Re:Chinglish (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jeeeb ( 1141117 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @06:09AM (#48724043)

          Chinese characters aren't that hard to learn. I learnt them (a subset anyway) while learning Japanese. It took about 3 years of reasonably intense study to be able to pick up and read a novel without too much difficulty. After 2 years I could generally approach newspaper articles. Newspapers are generally one of the easiest written mediums to approach. While there are several thousand characters in use, there is a relatively small subset of frequently used characters. Additional most characters are formed in a regular fashion from simpler characters. Probably the most common form being one phonetic part to indicate the reading and one semantic part to indicate the meaning.

          Chinese (apparently) has more characters in common use than Japanese but the difficulty does not scale linearly with the number of characters and Japanese adds the significant complication of having phonetic (Chinese derived) readings and often multiple, irregular native Japanese readings per character, and huge numbers of irregular readings for combinations of characters.

          One interesting side affect of characters having semantic meaning is that it often makes the meaning of words even new to the reader, immediately obvious. Especially for science and technology related vocabulary the meanings of words rendered in Chinese characters is often much clearer and more immediately obvious than that of English words derived from Latin/Greek. As an extreme example I can often comprehend Chinese (esp. when written in traditional characters) even though I do not speak Chinese

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      It would still be English, it is how it evolved.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:31AM (#48723337) Homepage
    Meanwhile, /. will still not support Unicode characters outside of a very small whitelist. Historians look upon this as a major factor in why Chinese did not become the dominant world language during the 21st century.
    • Re:Meanwhile... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:31AM (#48723561) Homepage

      Thank you! (check my sig). It's bugged me for no small amount of time.

      Unicode support is one of those things that to most Americans is an "Oh, I guess that matters to some people, doesn't it?" afterthought, but to people who use alternative character sets it's one big mess of poor support after the next.

      You all realize that in many cases by not properly supporting unicode you *force* people to use English, right? In this context I'm not talking about Slashdot persay (this is an English-language website and that's fine), but all sorts of other things. For example, in programming, most languages simply don't allow me to use Icelandic characters in variable and function names. So I'm left with two choices: mangle them (like we have to do with URLs and a ton of other things), or simply use English. If I choose to mangle them to remove Icelandic characters, not only is it ugly and less readable (imagine if you had to mangle about a third of the letters in the English alphabet to write), but it almost guarantees messups because you write your *strings* unmangled (you certainly don't want to be outputting mangled text to the user), so you're always switching back and forth between needing to write mangled and unmangled. Even as for the strings themselves, in most languages unicode support ranges from "mildly acceptable" to "bloody awful". Because it's just an afterthought to developers whose native language is English that hardly crosses their mind in the design and implementation phases. They know that they "should" support it, but most really don't care.

      Now, I've seen some people take the concept too far, like trying to localize "for" and "if" and "else" and the like. That's stupid and pointless and asking for problems. But for crying out loud, make my strings work right and let me chose my own variable / function names. :P

      • îâ
        There are supposed to be 5 letters above.

      • I'm surprised that .Net doesn't have more popularity in other countries. It has full Unicode support for strings and identifiers. Here's an example in Hindi [msdn.com]. Java also supports Unicode variable names. I guess they aren't completely open source/free, but if having multilingual identifiers is as important as you state, then you'd expect these languages to be highly used over thing like PHP which seem to have very little Unicode support.
  • by tgv ( 254536 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:31AM (#48723341) Journal

    The phrase "We retain ... AC current for similar reasons." makes me believe the author doesn't know what (s)he is speaking about.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I think perhaps they meant "120V AC" or something similar. 230V AC, while having a few disadvantages, is in most regards much better for home distribution. More power with less copper and less losses, easier and more efficient to transform, etc. Shocks hurt more, though.

      Either that, or perhaps they're thinking more long term with the fact that high voltage DC transformers are becoming cheaper. There may be something to the concept that in the long run we'll increasingly see at least part of distribution don

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:33AM (#48723349)

    Go to the hippest clubs or most-expensive shopping malls in Shanghai or Hong Kong. You'll see elite Chinese and HK kids speaking English, not Chinese. More often than not, they're speaking English with an English accent too.

    You don't see elite Western kids in New York or London hanging out and speaking Chinese.

    The same goes for rich kids in Rio and Sao Paulo. The same goes for rich kids in Bangkok, Istanbul, Mexico City and Riyadh. The global elite speak English. They're not going to be learning Chinese any time soon.

    (The exception is Japan, of course. But Japan is Japan. They're not going to be speaking English any time soon, elite or not).

    The issue isn't population numbers. It's what the global 1% are doing. And they're learning English in increasing numbers.

    • Engrish [engrish.com]

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:58AM (#48723441) Homepage

      Go to the hippest clubs or most-expensive shopping malls in Shanghai or Hong Kong. You'll see elite Chinese and HK kids speaking English, not Chinese. More often than not, they're speaking English with an English accent too. You don't see elite Western kids in New York or London hanging out and speaking Chinese. (...) The issue isn't population numbers. It's what the global 1% are doing. And they're learning English in increasing numbers.

      The elite has often had their own languages, Latin used to be the language of any classic education. French used to be the language of diplomacy. The difference now is that quite ordinary foreigners learn English to become a support desk worker or software developer or work in an airport or the reception of a hotel and so on. Not to mention here in Europe in many large companies English is now the business language, no matter where you are. Sure if we're in a meeting with just locals but if one person doesn't understand English you switch. The casual email might be in the local tongue if you know the recipient, but all code, deliverables and documentation is in English. Or to put it conversely, if you can't work in English you've significantly limited your employment opportunities. The invisible hand of the market is pushing quite well on this one.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The difference now is that quite ordinary foreigners learn English to become a support desk worker or software developer or work in an airport or the reception of a hotel and so on. Not to mention here in Europe in many large companies English is now the business language, no matter where you are. Or to put it conversely, if you can't work in English you've significantly limited your employment opportunities. The invisible hand of the market is pushing quite well on this one.

        One more advantage of English . . . you can speak it extremely badly, and still make yourself understood. I was once in a cafeteria in scenic Austin, Texas, where a guy from China and a guy from India were talking to each other . . . in English. The English that they were talking would have given my 7th grade English teacher conniption fits, but the two guys managed to communicate with each other:

        English is a fault tolerant language.

        With a relatively small vocabulary, you can say a whole hell of a lot.

        • English is a fault tolerant language.

          With a relatively small vocabulary, you can say a whole hell of a lot.

          A simple language for simple minds.

          It works.

          I have often wondered how much the English language contributed to the industrial revolution taking place in Britain as opposed to other Euripean countries. English is more precise in some ways than other languages, is it a better tool for expressing ideas? Is the flexibility of the language -- that it easily adopts foreign words an advantage?

          Eng

          • by aliquis ( 678370 )

            ... or because they ruled half the world?

            I read earlier that Germany was the language of science things here in Europe but after the world war(s, whichever), UK and France wanted to take that from them / saw their opportunity.

            • After WWI teaching German was actually outlawed in some places in the US, and I'm sure the UK and France (obviously) had similar qualms with speaking/teaching the Hun's tongue.

              During WWII the German scientific community was destroyed/uprooted/turned into ash.

              But prior to that, yeah -- for everything from economics to chemistry; German was the language to learn.

          • I have often wondered how much the English language contributed to the industrial revolution taking place in Britain as opposed to other Euripean countries. English is more precise in some ways than other languages, is it a better tool for expressing ideas?

            Take a quick glance at German. When I'm sitting in a meeting full of Germans, and one of them mentions Fehlerbehebungsmassnahmen , I know exactly what he is talking about.

            I'm a native English speaker, but learned German as a second language. The German language is like programming C++ . . . you can do some wacky things with it that are a hoot and a half, but "normal" users should probably best tend to avoid . . .

            . . . haben gehabt wäre gewesen sein . . . .

          • by Cyberax ( 705495 )

            English is, according to the Defence Language Institute in Monterey, CA, one of, it not the most, difficult language to learn (because so much of it is irregular), but, having learned it, are English speakers at an advantage?

            Whut? English is _easy_: no grammar cases, simple pluralization rules (with a handful of exceptions), only about 100-200 of irregular verbs that are still in use, grammar tense system familiar for just about every West European language speaker and so on.

            Sure, there are problems like a disconnect between spelling and pronunciation but this is minor compared to, say, leaning the grammar case system in Finnish. And even the pronunciation problem is not so bad if you mostly communicate in _writing_.

    • by realkiwi ( 23584 )

      The global 1% are bilingual (at least) They have studied languages because their parents can afford to send them overseas to expensive schools.

      The hip Chinese kids are just being snobs when they speak in English in their home country. Elite Western kids speak French when they are in Paris and Spanish when they are in Madrid. I bet if they are in a French restaurant in New York city they are even capable of speaking French there too...

      Your theory is BS

    • For me it is not so much what language do they speak internally but what is the common language to speak internationally that is interesting.

      For example the language of the sea, and of the air is English. For example when a French or Chinese air traffic controller is communicating with an aircraft of their own nationality it must be in English, so that all the traffic which is listening on the same channel knows what is going on.

      A similar thing has happened for international trade. I am British but work f

    • "English becoming the defacto global lingua franca"

      That sentence suggests why. The English language is proven very adapt at including words and phrases from a whole host of other Languages.

      e.g
      German: Blitz, Bratwurst, Delicatessen, Ersatz, Flak, Frankfurter, Larger, kaput, Muesli, Spritzer, Zeitgeist,
      French: au-fait, belle, blase, brunette, cafe, critique, de-rigueur, deja-vue.
      Spanish: Amigo, banana, barbecue, breeze, cannibal, cargo.
      Japanese: Bonsai, haiku, karaoke, origami, manga, satsuma, tycoon.
      Chines

  • Canadian of course and mukluks will be the shoe of choice unless those Wyld Stalyns have their way.

  • The power loss for AC current is less than DC because the voltages are easily transformed reducing P = i^2R. Is there any expectation that will change (assuming the world will not all of a sudden convert to distributed energy...solar isn't that cheap nor is it able to supply baseload)?

    • by mothlos ( 832302 )

      Unfortunately there are still no signs of a comparably efficient DC voltage transformer on the horizon.

      I sometimes wonder where ideas like the one from the OP AC come from; do many people think that AC is an accident of history which is now horribly outdated?

      • DC-DC converters of comparable efficiency are now quite practical. They weren't at the time, as they need semiconductor components. 80% is common, 95% is achievable. For high power applications like grid distribution, transformers are a lot cheaper - you can simply scale them up easily, while trying to make a DC-DC converter run at half a million volts would need some very exotic semiconductor components.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          while trying to make a DC-DC converter run at half a million volts would need some very exotic semiconductor components.

          Some HVDC systems run at near a megavolt. Example [wikipedia.org].

          HVDC systems overall decrease losses and costs on long runs, the converter stations themselves actually lose very little and long-distance line losses can be dramatically reduced. But the stations are still very expensive (and not very standardized, as the tech is still very muchso a moving target), so it's currently pretty much only reali

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:48AM (#48723615) Homepage

      For a given voltage and given mass of wire per unit distance, however, DC has lower losses (dramatically lower in some environments, such as undersea cables). It also is a lot more stable, you don't have to worry about frequency maintenance, off-sync grid interconnects, and a bunch of other stuff.

      High voltage DC is still expensive to do but it's been getting a *lot* cheaper, and will probably continue to do so. For the time being, though, it's going to be confined to long high-power runs and undersea cables, situations that maximize its benefits and minimize the number of step-up / step-down stations required.

  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:38AM (#48723367)

    In only 100 years' time? Nothing much will change, is my guess. Historically, we have seen that Latin(-ish) became dominant in much of Europe, then faded away again with the fading influence of the Roman church, but it held out for a very long time in academic circles - in fact, as a little anecdote, when the Flora Europaea was published from the '60es onwards, there was a debate over whether it should be published in Latin or English, according to the foreword.

    English will be the trade language for a long while, but Chinese will grow in influence, no doubt, and may well be the second language in most of Europe. As for language loss - there seems to be a pattern where smaller language groups diminish, but then go through a revival when the speakers become wealthy enough to take an interest in their own, unique identity. Dialects too don't always disappear quickly, so perhaps we won't lose too much.

    • Re:English-ish? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:49AM (#48723417) Journal
      English has one thing going for it: despite its odd irregularities, it is pretty easy to learn. Chinese on the other hand is notoriously hard to read, write and speak well. I don't think many people will bother to learn Chinese as a second language. Remember when Japan was the up and coming economic powerhouse of the world? We'd all have to learn Japanese... Except that hasn't hapoened either.
      • Chinese on the other hand is notoriously hard to read, write and speak well.

        Only the reading/writing is hard. The grammar is simple, and the pronunciation isn't too hard (yeah tones, but those are more intimidating than difficult).

        But the reading......if you think about it, what's the hardest part of learning a language? Eventually you get the pronunciation, eventually you get the grammar, but you still keep learning vocabulary. I'm still learning vocabulary in English and it's my native language. Chinese essentially took the hardest part of learning a language, and doubled it (

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        That's true. A lot of native English speakers think of English as a "hard" language. True, there's a lot of irregularity, but the alphabet is small and there are very few declension forms. And lots of languages have tons of irregularity, English is hardly unique in that regard. I used an Icelandic-language database I wrote the other day to pull out how many noun declension patterns there are - depending on how you define a "pattern", it's in the range of dozens to hundreds.

        As for Japan, they've gotten a lot

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
        The key point about English is that, while it's not the easiest language to learn to speak well, it is one of the easiest to learn to speak badly but comprehensibly. People can speak English really badly and still make themselves understood. This gives it a nice incremental learning curve where the result of a small bit of effort is worthwhile.
      • English has one thing going for it: despite its odd irregularities, it is pretty easy to learn. Chinese on the other hand is notoriously hard to read, write and speak well. I don't think many people will bother to learn Chinese as a second language.

        - English is 'pretty easy to learn'? Not really - like any language, it is easy to learn the basics, but that is true for Chinese as well. Learning to communicate well in English is very hard, even to a native Englishman. I work in an international company, and I come across a lot of very awkward English from very well educated people; I really do. They are not stupid - English is difficult to master.

        - Chinese: 'notoriously hard'? Not by a mile or two. It is easy to learn to pronounce, because the standard

    • Yeah. If Swedish/Norwegian/Danish haven't managed to merge yet, and those would be easy languages to merge, they how are all the language in the world going to merge?
      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Aren't we (Swede here) not just talking dialects of each other languages?

        Swedish and Norwegian sounds very similar.
        Norwegian and Danish spell very similar.

        Norwegians are best at both.
        Swedish is the largest one.

        I think part of the reason is the wars.

        Also I guess over hundreds of years small changes happen. Why would they merge into the same? And which one of them?

        I can still read Danish pretty ok even though I've never learned the vocabulary (so it of course only work by searching for a similar word in Swedi

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I live in Europe and I know of almost nobody over here who's learning Chinese. Most people here would rather reduce our required-languages-to-learn-in-school (currently everyone has to learn Danish (as well as English), which isn't exactly the most useful language in the scheme of things).

      The reason everyone everywhere learns English isn't just because, say, they're thinking "hmm, this language would be useful to me in international trade" or the like. It's because it's bloody everywhere (media, the grocery

  • Few you say? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I personally see no reason why a single language, and particularly English, SHOULDN'T replace other languages eventually. Language barriers continue to be one of the causes of cultural conflict and the existence of many different languages, be it 6000 or 600 or even 6 serves absolutely no practical purpose other than as artificial barriers to communication. If a culture or place wishes to preserve its traditional/ancestral language for ritualistic or ceremonial purposes then so be it, but the official langu

    • Re:Few you say? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RoLi ( 141856 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @04:00AM (#48723665)

      If what you write were true, it would have happened a very long time ago.

      But it didn't. Why?

      Because a language is basically like a uniform that marks "us" vs. "them". It creates group cohesion and community.

      To be exact any non-English language, because English is spoken by anybody anyway, therefore does not give any identity.

      English-speakers everywhere (be it a native US or a cosmopolitan European or Chinese) are having very few children and are living in a destructive "pop culture" that is not very conducive for large families.

      Non-English-speakers on the other hand are isolated from "pop culture" a lot better, therefore can have more stable and larger families - and are growing in all countries.

      That trend can be seen everywhere. Traditional English speakers will be a minority in all the major English-speaking nations (US, UK, Australia). Maybe they can hold out and maintain a majority in New Zealand.

      A good example are the Amish: Just 200 Swiss/Germans came to America and they did NOT assimilate. 200 years later they are 250,000 and still doubling every generation. That is only possible because they are isolated from the majority culture - and their ancient German dialect is one of the things that helps them do that: If the children don't understand Lady Gaga, they won't be influenced by her.

      And that is the reason why no language replaced all the others: When the dominant culture/language becomes decadent, people have no other choice than to push other cultures/languages in order to survive.

    • Re:Few you say? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Saturday January 03, 2015 @05:24AM (#48723915) Homepage Journal

      I personally see no reason why a single language, and particularly English, SHOULDN'T replace other languages eventually.

      Because it is inadequate for use in other cultures. As a Japanese speaker I can tell you that there are things you can say in Japanese but not in English, and the whole way of thinking about the world and describing it in Japanese is fundamentally different. It's hard to explain, but for example everything is split into animate and inanimate groups, with subtle yet important ramifications. There are four levels of politeness you can use in Japanese speech, and they are an intrinsic part of Japanese culture.

      The only way English will ever replace Japanese is if Japanese culture goes away. I can't see that happening. It's similar with Chinese and Korean, and probably lots of other languages. Fortunately we can overcome the "cultural conflicts" quite successfully - just look at Europe, where many different languages and cultures manage to co-exist peacefully and even cooperate within a larger political structure.

      • I personally see no reason why a single language, and particularly English, SHOULDN'T replace other languages eventually.

        Because it is inadequate for use in other cultures.

        THIS. Individual languages develop around culture and then take an active role in shaping it, though most people within that culture don't realize it until they step outside of their language and culture. It can lead to concepts that are truly untranslatable [amazon.com], in the sense that there is no single word or short phrase that could convey the concept precisely in another language.

        Most people who argue that we wouldn't lose much if we all spoke the same language also seem to believe in the "dictionary model"

  • Good riddens... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ParanoidMonkey ( 1198849 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @02:46AM (#48723397)
    Being able to understand other cultures to form my own opinions would be great! These awful language barriers feed all manner of stupidity (e.g. wars, distrust, etc.). As for culture transfer? Pshh, whatever man, we have art and poetry for that stuff. We shouldn't mourn progress on that account.
    • by realkiwi ( 23584 )

      Good riddance - if you want to dominate the world learn to spell first!

      Wars are not started by languages but by greed and stupidity.

  • As we will have destroyed the biosphere and will have had to retreat to the underside.
  • by Selur ( 2745445 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:21AM (#48723519)

    What about universal translators? In 100 years time, won't they be good enough for general use?
    -> my bet is that the world will still speak lots of languages and use translators. :)

    • Fuck me dead. I have to read 90% of the comments on a thread on a technology site to get to this post.. Yes exactly. Mobile phones will be ubiquitous, so automatic translators will be ubiquitous.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      If you try to use very simple, concrete words that can't easily be confused for the purpose of translation then maybe. But for general text with all kinds of irregularities (idioms, euphemisms, allusions, metaphors, jargon, slang, all kinds of word play) translations will still suck bad. The real issue is that you don't know if what the translator was right, even with a very limited vocabulary of your own you can usually make something simple and understandable. With the translator you hopefully have a broa

      • But for general text with all kinds of irregularities (idioms, euphemisms, allusions, metaphors, jargon, slang, all kinds of word play) translations will still suck bad.

        100 years is a long time, though. There are a countable number of these idioms, euphemisms, etc. For example, if I google translate "I haven't the foggiest idea," Google gives me, "No tengo ni la más remota idea de" -- but if I translate, "foggiest" I get "más brumosa" (my emphasis in the quotes).

        100 years ago, we barely had vacuum tubes -- and only diodes and triodes at that. We already have context-aware translations, albeit of limited utility. In another 100 years, I suspect our translators

  • In many eastern nations, English is so widely used because it is seen as a neutral language. Many people in southern China who speak Yue Chinese (ie, Cantonese) dislike speaking Mandarin, which is a mutually intelligible language. Likewise in India where there are 7 major language groups comprising over 120 languages and over 1000 dialects and minor languages, many Indians (especially of the upper caste) prefer to use English as opposed to a non-local language. In these cases, English will thrive if only

  • I thought the population growth right now was in India, where they speak a lot of English. Of a sort.

    And there's no way a closed-wall country like China could have their language exported to the world, no matter how many they are. Especially since the trade language, in China, is English. (Of another sort.)

    But here's to hope that the regional languages lives on, because some sort of crippled international English with a vocabulary of 400 words should not be your primary language.

  • by realkiwi ( 23584 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:46AM (#48723601)

    First of all do not confuse language and dialects. People around here speak Basque, one of those tiny languages which are gong to disappear according to some. But young people here are becoming more and more interested by their cultural heritage and more and more are learning Basque. That is because there is a unification of the several Basque dialects into a single language understood and spoken by all. Dialects have disappeared or are disappearing but the language is reinforced

    English is my mother tongue but where I live I had to learn another language, French, in which I am fully bilingual. Right now I am learning Spanish because I live 11 km from the border and it is quite handy. My girlfriend speaks French, Spanish and Basque and has decided to learn some English. Many Europeans speak several languages and it doesn't seem to be an issue for them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by deviker . ( 3906415 )
      Epa, I'm Basque. I live in Spain. I've always been quite poor and unable to pay private education. I'm learning Chinese, I learnt English on my own reading manuals and aplication notes, using IRC, mail lists, newsgroups and watching series/movies mainly. Even though my English might be broken I use it everyday and had no problems with it.

      I'm able to understand French without any problems (written and spoken and translate it to English as fast as I can move my vocal cords, in real time). I learned French

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @03:59AM (#48723661)
    I'm afraid 100 years is rather short time for languages to develop. Let's compare 100 years backwards to today. Was the combo platter that much different in 1915?
    • Re:No big changes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pz ( 113803 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @09:08AM (#48724583) Journal

      Yes. French was the international language 100 years ago. English was (at that point) an also-ran.

      Interesting observation: in modern-day Poland, when you ride the train, there are multi-lingual signs instructing on how do do things like open the windows or operate the toilet. The signs appear in Polish (it's Poland, after all), German (much of Poland was Germany and vice versa), Russian (it was under the Soviet sphere of influence), and French (the international language). No English.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday January 03, 2015 @04:11AM (#48723697) Homepage

    2015 is only 100 years away, John Backus designed FORTRAN 57 years ago, so it is 1/3 of the way there and still going strong. I suspect that C will still be in use.

    Oh, what do you mean spoken ?

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @05:56AM (#48724003)

    The difference between English today and earlier examples like French, German, Latin, Arabic, Greek, Aramaic, etc., is the vast bulk of written material available in English, and increasingly audio and video digital formats, plus the fact that while English is as difficult as any other language to speak well, it is easier than most to speak, and especially to read, passably.

    Technology for translation will make that reality less relevant but is unlikely to change the relative positions of the big languages. English, Mandarin, Spanish, and Russian will still have a lot of wealth associated with them.

    It is a loss for the world because when a language becomes widespread, it loses a lot of its distinctiveness. English has the grammar that it does largely because the English language community went through several iterations of that process.

    • Actually, English is one of the more difficult languages to read because of all the irregularities. Even French is easier.

      Estonian is, by the way, one of the easiest languages to read. No diacritic salad like in Czech, or letter clusters for a single phoneme like in Polish, French and German, no irregularities, long vocals are marked as a double vocals, which makes the most sense, double consonants are exactly that. Everything is written as you would say it. And in contrast to Finnish or German the words ar

      • by dk20 ( 914954 )

        Plus English has tendency to incorporate features/words from other languages into it resulting in additional complexities (you can sort of tell the words are not "English")

        "vis-a-vis" being a good example.

        In English, what is a "vis"?

  • One word ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Saturday January 03, 2015 @10:22AM (#48724881) Homepage
    ... "Firefly"; watch and learn.

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