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July 12, 2012

Nicholas Ostler on the History and Diversity of Language

The Browser:

It's widely presumed that the English language will become entrenched as the world's lingua franca and that minority languages will continue to die out. But you don't really buy into this theory and have argued that new technology might allow minority languages to thrive. I wonder if you could expand on this?

I try to look at things from a historical perspective rather than just what's happening in this decade or century. I look at the progress of languages over centuries and millennia - my book Empires of the Word starts in 3000 BC and ends in modern times. Each of us only lives two or three generations, so it's quite difficult for us to get that perspective without really striving for it. When it comes to languages, we tend to be familiar only with the one that we use on a daily basis. When we are also conscious that in the last century or two that language has spread out all over the world, it gives us a very foreshortened perspective. What I'm trying to do is to correct that.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at July 12, 2012 5:47 AM
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