- For Teachers
He predicts English will become a family of languages, just as Latin did a thousand years ago.
But globalization has "killed distance" since... unlike a thousand years ago, we have the internet, cheap airlines etc., a global village is not very likely to follow the same pattern as the ancient or early medieval world. Will - say - pop stars from Singapore sing in incomprehensible creole?
Stuartnz (who was generous enough to hand down "the realities of linguistics" as well as "the historical reality among immigrant communities") and others like him claim that all forms of English are equally valid. This of course flies in the face of most observable evidence and I doubt even professional intellectuals actually believe it, otherwise they would be posting their defence of the concept in Guyanese patois (since it is equally as valid as standard English, with the added benefit of providing "richness" and "diversity").
According to some self-professed linguists, there is no right and wrong or good and bad, just standard and non-standard. While it is true that certain non-standard forms do, with time, become acceptable, I find it foolish to try to assert that the English used in gangsta rap or in text messages is as acceptable as the English spoken in The Economist or published books.
Stuartnz says that English speakers must embrace the "richness and diversity" of poor grammar and "non-standard" forms. Why is, then, that when immigrants come to English-speaking countries and slowly alter the way they speak their native language, "the language of the former homeland[...]suffers"? The answer is clear: English being changed by outside influences is good, while other languages being influenced by English is bad.
I wonder if these proponents of the "anything goes" school of thought would seriously argue that Quebecois is just as well regarded as Parisian? If they would actually prefer to learn Swiss German over Hochdeutsch? If they think that a resume written in the English used in 419 scam emails from Nigeria will get the same attention as one written in British English?
My students tell me over and over again that they prefer British English to American English. I could become outraged and give them a little lecture about cultural equivalence and how my English is every bit as good as British English, but it would be pointless and silly.
Every English dialect is a complex code with agreed-upon meanings understood among the people that speak it. While they may be mutually intelligible (up to a point..."slapping a girl's fanny", "getting gas" and "being sick" mean quite different things to most Americans and Brits) they do designate people as belonging to one of many identifiable groups of people. Saying that all English variants are equally "valid" is largely meaningless and usually precedes a heated defence of people who speak poor (sorry, "non-standard") English.
Interesting how language comes back to politics.
But then you come up against the 'whose standards for Standard English?' question, which is also vexed. I agree that there is plenty to criticise in the 'anything goes' school, but the woe-am-I-to-finally-see-infinitives-split-in-The-Times crew and the judgements they make of both people and grammar are also frequently wide of the mark.