15 December 2013
Global Language: English as a Lingua Franca “Because of the three-pronged development – of first language, second-language, and foreign language speakers – it is inevitable that a global language will eventually come to be used by more people than any other language. English has already reached this stage” (Crystal 6). Has English reached the whole world and have the capacity to become the principal global language or lingua franca as Crystal describes above? If so, what has led to this development? And what does the future hold for English as a global language? In order to determine if English has the capacity to become a global language or lingua franca, the following factors must be examined: the historical context of English, the current facts about English, and the conditions that make English a global language. First of all, are the terms global language and lingua franca transferable? What does each of these terms mean and how are they related to each other? According to Richard Nordquist, a global language is defined as a language is used as a “common means of communication across cultures – a lingua franca” (1). The definition for lingua franca is a “common language” (Crystal 9). Thus a global language, or lingua franca, is a language that is common across cultures and used as a means of communication. It seems that they are one in the same in terms of defining what a global language, or lingua franca is. So, how does English fit into this context? Historically, the language of English began with the “pioneering voyages” around the world and has continued to spread through the “twentieth century” (Crystal 29). And so it can be said that the origins of English began with the movement of the Indo-Europeans as they migrated across Europe and Central Asia. Through these migrations multiple language families were developed. Some of these language groups have died out, but it is thought that one of these was Germanic in nature and that out of this Germanic language English was developed (Mastin 1). The peoples speaking this language continued to migrate, and countries were invaded. During of which time the language grew and consisted of a variety of dialects. The language continued to develop through approximately the first century. It is at this time period that Old English developed and soon “arrived in England from Northern Europe in the fifth Century” (Crystal 30). From there English continued to develop and have influences from other languages and cultures. Thus began the period of Middle English from approximately the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries (Short 1). After this time frame English was still moving about and transforming from various cultures and now inventions. The printing press was developed, the Bible was printed, dictionaries and various grammars were also printed and developed (Mastin 16). All of these things contributed to the development of English and lead to international trade beginning in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. English continued its transformation as it moved from country to country borrowing words and expanding as a dialect (Mastin 19). The New World was discovered and English came to the Americas in the early sixteen hundreds as British settlers began the colonization of Jamestown. Quickly other areas were also colonized like Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, Africa, and South Asia and the South Pacific (Crystal 54). English continued to develop and transform with a variety of dialects and the influence of such famous authors like Shakespeare and Chaucer to what is now called Modern English. The result is that English is “now represented in every continent and in islands of the three major oceans” (Crystal 29). Because English has “been on the move” for so long emigrating from one country to another, more and more people are speaking the language (Crystal 30).