English has become a universal language. There are many reasons for its dominance: the heritage of the British Empire, and the post-world-war economic hegemony and cultural influence – ranging from Mickey Mouse and Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley and Snoop Dogg – of the United States.
But the main reason is the elasticity of the language and the broad-mindedness it communicates. If English grammar is rudimentary, the linguistic equivalent of rock’ n’ roll, the English vocabulary is huge. There are very few things that can’t be expressed in English, and if it can’t be said in English then a word is lifted from another language – like "kindergarten," for example. If it doesn’t exist in English and a word isn’t lifted from another language it’s because what it represents doesn’t make sense to thinking shaped by the English language: a case in point, "Schicksalsgemeinschaft" (companions in fate).
The predominance of English in sciences, economy, culture and politics is overwhelming. In Palestine, in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, Latin was the language of the military and government. But to be considered educated you had to speak Greek; if you were Jewish you also had to speak Hebrew; and the language of the masses was Aramaic. In the Europe of the late Middle Ages, Latin was the language of the erudite, Italian the language of trade, and blossoming cultures used their own respective languages...
...Yet one dares make the assertion that the world is lucky that it is English – that whore among languages –that has become the global lingua franca. From its inception English showed the multicultural flexibility and openness that are the secret to success. Originally a Scandinavian-Low German dialect, it was – after the invasion of England by the French-speaking Normans –enriched by a romance-language vocabulary to the extent that there are two words for virtually all objects.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment