Monday, July 4, 2016

Lingua Franca Male Affecta?

In a recent article The downside of English as the universal language I found the following paragraph: In the 19th century, German was the dominant language of science and technology. French was the language of diplomacy. In the 20th century, both of those languages gave way to English. Today, English is the lingua franca of world commerce and academia, but will it one day go the way of Latin, the European lingua franca of the Middle Ages and into the 17th century? Will Chinese, with over a billion speakers, or some other language eventually become the new universal language?

This is of valid concern but presently I am more interested to know in how far the use of English as lingua franca by non-native speakers will influence its grammar and vocabulary. Lingua male affecta?

The use of the conditional in conditional clauses (If I would have time instead of if I had time ...) is a common mistake of German, Dutch, or Norwegian speakers. Furthermore non-native speakers tend to create pseudo-English words like Handy for a mobile phone or use neologism like public viewing for the public screening of important soccer matches even when a perfect description in German exists that however nobody uses: Rudelgucken.

In fact, so far the argumentation about the influence of English is just overrated as the author of the article writes: I am often amused by Germans who like to complain about how English is taking over die deutsche Sprache ... Yes, there’s a lot of English used in modern German (so-called “Denglish”), but don’t think that means German is turning into English. Far from it!

Red Baron's attitude is rather pragmatic. English vocabulary is often used in German for faster communication. Sale is just shorter than Schlussverkauf. On the other hand a browser has a perfect German translation but Stöberer nobody uses. Let the more concise word be the winner. Handy is shorter than cellular phone but has not found its entry into proper English. On the other hand, so far no German word beats smartphone, a phone that is smarter than a simple Handy.

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