Philip Deitiker (
26 Jul 1995 18:19:22 GMT (Dumdum. Orion P.) wrote:
> English is not the "World Lingua Franca" based on it's
>"make-upability" and "plyability." English is there because it
>was brought to different corners of the world by the British
>and in the case of the Philippines and some Pacific island-nations,
>by the United States. The fact that World Economy is based on the
>Dollar is a major point, too. Because of the overwhelming contributions
>to modern living by English-speakers, English is in its position
>today. The sheer amount of literature floating around in English, the
>movies, and the popular music around the world which are basically
>in English further enhance its position.

I think you are greatly oversimplifying the progression of the langauage.
The dominance of the english language is due to both opportunity and
functionality. The opportunity came from both British and American (US)
expansionism; however, much of this expansion has receded. Yet, in many
places the language is still used for functional reasons. The functional
aspects of english is its nonromantic and technical nature (particularly
with american English) which provides a mechanism for discussing
scientific or engineering concepts. In this way english does not preclude
and existing language (which may be used domestically), but provides a
different framework for the discussion of non-'domestic' ideas. Its
success and tenacity lies in its association with modern industrialization
and the high-tech revolution, which extensively utilizes english in
computer programming and in world wide communication. English may not be
the best 'technical' language in the world (As many oriental langauges are
similarly functional), but it was provided the opportunity within the
framework of its political dominance over the last 100 years. I could
make the argument that other langauges (i.e. french, portugese, spanish,
german), had similar opportunity and in many instances were used for
transnational communication and scientific expression; however, within the
last fifty years they have been replaced (in the described roles) by

> As to the level of simplicity --> English has a relatively
>simple grammar. One does not need to learn many forms of a word to
>conjugate it properly, although there are some exceptions. But
>if one would talk about achieving a reading proficiency in it, where
>one could easily relate reading to speaking and hearing, English is
>a disaster. With all its inconsistencies, English spelling is a
>stumbling block for non-native speaker learners. English and Russian
>share this problem, although Russian has a greater degree of con-
> Actually, if simplicity was the key, then Spanish would certainly
>get there. Spanish, aside from being spoken by a large number of
>mother-tongue speakers,has a very consistent grammar and spelling-system.

Agreed. And spanish grammer is more predictable than english; however,
this may be a downfall of the language, because, when a number of related
words need to be chained together, such as 'ammonium acetate' spanish
requires the insertion of 'de' and word order reversal. In this case, the
modification is not troublesome; however, chemical formulas are generally
greatly more complex than NH4HCO3 and expression of many compunds in
spanish is overly cumbersome. My spanish speaking colleages tell me that
writing and speaking technical and scientific information in spansih often
results in 'wordy' expressions which complicate the expression and
perception of what said. OTOH, they find English greatly inadequate for
domestic use. This is the major general complaint against english and I've
heard it from non-english (as their principle langauge) speakers from all
over the world. But this deficiency may be its strength in the
international community, because it is deficient as a substitute for local
langauges, it is not a threat to those language, but an alternative means
of communication.
I think the greatest reason for English's success as a technical
langauge is it self corrupting nature. It allow the combination and
transformation of words. In addition, there are many latin derived english
words with obscure meanings which where used in the previous century that
have been replaced by less obscure words in the present century,
neccesitated by the users of english. The neccesity is that the obscure
words further complicate complicated concepts, and thus require the
simplist chain of concise words to convey meaning to as broad a group as
possible. The origin of modern english from other languages has been
discussed; however, the nature of its 'timely' origin, may be principle
reason for allowing faster modifications and adaptations (i.e. its not
burdened with alot of the traditions and customs and more established
older languages).

hasta luego