Over the past 100 years it’s globalisation – accelerated by new technology – that has had the greatest impact on the English language. English is a world language now, the dominant language of science, computing and academia in general. But looking back 100 years, to the start of the first world war, it wasn’t so clear that English would be so dominant.
People stayed in the area they grew up in, but we’ve seen tremendous changes since then in international travel and in the growth of the internet. English has a very large vocabulary and absorbs many words from other languages. That process will carry on through globalisation.
My research has looked at Chinese students writing in English, and although some people talk about Chinese becoming the lingua franca, I don’t think that’s likely to happen for quite some time. I think globalisation will result in people becoming more accepting of differences, of using different connotations, different vocabularies and so on.
We don’t own English anymore; that’s quite important. People can be quite precious about speaking British English as if it’s ours.
English is the dominant language in the world, and that means we have to accept that it’s going to change, and this change is beyond the control of mother tongue speakers.
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