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Acriku
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... Dutch, Flemish, ...

gryphon, you cheater. Dutch and Flemish are the same language (language union)

Before any kind of universal language can develop, however, I think we will see the rise of continental languages. Europe, for example, will most likely become a single political unit in the 21st century, and a few centuries down the line it is likely that the European languages will merge. (creating "Neo-Indo-European", perhaps? or just "Neo-European"?)

I doubt there will ever be continental languages. It seems like languages develop differently in the different areas they are spoken. Languages adapt to the environment you could say. Different dialects will start to exist, and the next step will be that two dialects will become so different that they will be different languages.

This has happened in the past, though nowadays there is much more global communication (e.g. the internet), and the effect of this is very hard to determine, so who knows... (Edric, you must have read The Diamond Age, right?)

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The great joy for me with English is that you can butcher it and still be understood, this forum has shown that on more than one occasion, in my daily life through work i get to meet people from many different countries and they all can manage English even if it's painful but the slightest change of tone in Chinese for instance can really bugger you. One of the girls at work used to count to ten in Chinese to impress one of the punters (he was Cute apparently) one night he cracked up as apparently the mispronouncing of one of the numbers changed the word to wank.

English is a complex language but it is also very simple at a basic level.

Great authors get published in many languages but that's marketing not the language, I bet there are loads of great English authors out there that have missed out due to poor marketing rather than writing.

I work with a number of eastern Europeans and all of them love the freedom this country provides, the working and living conditions, all these exist because of are Liberal politics and way of life.

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The point you wanted to make was based on the lack of your (or the general public for that matter) knowledge about foreign literature. The fact that you or you friends do not know current non-USoA writers does not imply that they aren
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Being a politician? Why, yes, that is the general idea. ;)

In all honesty, though, what I said above was just a clarification. This is what I have in mind when I say "liberal". Maybe you have something else in mind. That's fine. "Liberal" is a vague term.

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There are plenty of great writers out there that get less popularity and less recognition than they would if they were writing in English.

Edric, it’s the other way around which I couldn’t explain to you in a satirical way.

It’s not that most currently known great works are in English. It’s that all non-English great works get translated to reach a broader audience.

It’s the recognition of a writer he gets with stories written in its own language that makes him famous.

Converting a novel to English isn’t anything more then converting a book to a motion picture. More people watch films these days then read books.

More people watch films instead of reading books.

We all know English books and we all watch films, most of them written in their original language, got noticed and then got translated into English. It’s just that Americanized way of thinking which suggest that every thing you see originated in the USoA. Your are mistaking popularity with Americanized Economical exploitation.

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I believe that the universal language will yet be prevented from appearing by the existence of national states and the concept of a national language. It is probable that a more flexible and diverse variant of a lingua franca will emerge first, possibly based on English as the international language. Also national languages will tend to have more and more lexical borrowings, but you can only wonder how versatile a grammatic structure of a language is to fully adapt foreign lexemes. Widespread intercultural communication will also lead to increased influence on grammar, but this is yet quite an unpredictable process. Anyway, it is somehow easier for me to imagine most of the world being bilingual, with one national language and one international (although I think national languages will embrace large national-political blocs rather than single nations), and not monolingual. Although the existence of national languages is strongly tied with national states, here's an example of a preserved national language (well, even two national languages) in spite of apparent absence of an official state.

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  • 7 months later...

I know I'm sort of reviving this but having been feeling a bit nostalgic of late (probably age or alcohol) I've been trolling through old threads and posts and one thing that struck me about this one that whilst obvious was never mentioned.

We all included English in amongst are languages we spoke and yet we are not all from English speaking countries.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can speak English (my mother tongue), Swedish (my mother's tongue), a little Afrikaans and even less Zulu (I've forgotten most of the little I did learn when it comes to the last two).

Once I was well along in learning Swedish I quickly became more and more fascinated with languages. I should probably learn more.

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"I'm no expert in linguistics, of course (perhaps an intervention from Nema is in order), but the notion of each culture having some kind of separate understanding of the world that shows up in their language... well, that sounds like an outgrowth of 19th century romantic nationalism."

Ah, sorry for the delay.

I think it's fair to say that:

1) The world is composed of many different cultures

2) Our culture affects how we see the world

3) Cultural identity is often linked to language

4) Language is one of the ways in which we express and promote our culture

5) Language develops to accommodate its uses

From 4 and 5, we deduce

6) Language will develop to be able to express the ideas that go with a given culture

From 6 and 3,

7) The language associated with a given culture will come to reflect elements of that culture

From 7 and 2,

8) The language associated with a given culture will come to reflect elements of how the cultural identity group view the world

And from 8 and 1,

9) Each culture will have some kind of understanding of the world that shows up in their language

9 is almost what Edric said, but the 'separate' bit is not really the case, as there's massive overlap. Note also that this on no account means that you can somehow measure a culture by its language or predict the language of a given culture. Rather, it tells us that we should not be surprised when some languages have many words for snow, while other languages have many words for paperwork. Except if the first is found in central Africa and the second is the language of a civilisation without writing.

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"It is not easier to talk about Existentialism or Buddhism or Marxism depending on the language you speak - though it may be easier to talk about snow and coffee"

It is easiest to talk about Islam in Arabic, because the meaning of many arabic words are influenced by Islamic thought. This means that your translations will fail to convey quite the same meaning. That's not to say it's not perfectly possible to discuss Islam in English, but there are slight differences, and the translations we adopt depend on our pre-existing understanding of Islam.

I don't claim that the differences are deep in any way, but that in almost any utterance, the language in which it is spoken restricts or redirects the meaning a little.

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I think you all should go to the YouTube website and listen to the "Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie: The Subject of Language" clip (

) - it's hilarious.

I've often wondered about whether it's the language that controls the culture or the other way round - the "chicken and egg" problem. I do speak Swedish fluently, but, relatively speaking (if one considers the whole world), it's so similar to English that I can't come to any definite conclusions based on my own experience. Does language control how people think? An impossible question to answer, say I.

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Sorry to post twice in a row, but I found the following interesting. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_European_Union and look under the heading "Language skills of European Union citizens." It seems more Swedes can speak English "as a language other than Mother Tongue" than any other people in the EU (89%). Go, Sweden!

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Does language control how people think?

The interaction between thought and language goes in both directions. Using a particular language, you're in a way restricted to the conceptual "map" (or segmentation) of reality this language reflects. This segmentation, in turn, is essentially a complex view of the world (worldview) that formed in a particular culture throughout its existence. For example, certain traces of Indo-European worldview are still present in modern-day IE languages, but they're most likely to be ignored by the speakers. On the other hand, at any give moment, language will reflect ideas that are important for a culture (like you say that there's a single word for coffee break in Swedish).

However, all this doesn't deny an individual their own views of the world, because theoretically, you can use any human language to talk about anything you can conceive (using some imagination of needed). In academic study at least, you can even create new words (terms) for new phenomena or new aspects of already known phenomena you might discover.

In any case, do not forget that language is a tool of thought, so it only "controls" how people think in the way that you cannot surpass the limits of its capabilities. However, by arranging ideas in a specific manner, one can influence how people will perceive and think about certain phenomena. But that's not pure linguistics but rather... politics. You may want to read the latest of George Lakoff's works on framing and political discourse for more information.

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In any case, do not forget that language is a tool of thought, so it only "controls" how people think in the way that you cannot surpass the limits of its capabilities. However, by arranging ideas in a specific manner, one can influence how people will perceive and think about certain phenomena. But that's not pure linguistics but rather... politics. You may want to read the latest of George Lakoff's works on framing and political discourse for more information.

But even talking pure linguistics, there are more extreme theories out there. For instance, taking a classic example, George Orwell used the idea of how language can be used to control people's ideas for Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four. (You've probably read the book.) This "language" made certain ideas (about liberty, freedom of speech, etc.) well-nigh impossible to express. I think it's a bit of an exaggerated idea (I'm not even sure how seriously he took it himself), but fascinating nonetheless. I just wanted to point out that there are experts who think more along these lines, i.e. that language can exert a more powerful influence; though, on the whole, I think I agree more with your ideas.

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Well, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is still prominent these days, so what can I say... No one knows for sure I guess, but what is certain is that verbal thinking is a necessary condition for being human, and the existence of different languages and cultures suggests that human thought can vary to some extent. I still believe that mind has priority over language, but it's not individual mind but rather the collective one. Anyhow, human mind and natural language are in the state of dialectal unity.

What concerns Orwell's Newspeak, I think such language is not entirely impossible, but its expressive capabilities would probably be inferior to that of any known natural language. Newspeak would either develop uncontrollably, or malfunction if too strictly controlled by the Party.

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