Life is a Mystery

29 June 2008

Chinglish

We like to laugh at malformed English around the world, but what if the last laugh is on us? Andrew points to an article at Wired which describes how English is recombining with other languages, particularly asian languages, to form a new global tongue.

Any language is constantly evolving, so it’s not surprising that English, transplanted to new soil, is bearing unusual fruit. Nor is it unique that a language, spread so far from its homelands, would begin to fracture. The obvious comparison is to Latin, which broke into mutually distinct languages over hundreds of years — French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian. A less familiar example is Arabic: The speakers of its myriad dialects are connected through the written language of the Koran and, more recently, through the homogenized Arabic of Al Jazeera. But what’s happening to English may be its own thing: It’s mingling with so many more local languages than Latin ever did, that it’s on a path toward a global tongue — what’s coming to be known as Panglish. Soon, when Americans travel abroad, one of the languages they’ll have to learn may be their own.

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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org