Internet explosion puts English language on top for good
internet growth now doubles every two years like a tidal wave pushing
English language to the zenith of its influence and expressiveness. It
has made English the language of international business, technology and
popular culture creating a niche for itself which would be hard to beat,
according to many linguists. That ascendancy caused by the expanding web
use is different from the slower evolution English underwent during
centuries of refinement from the time of Geoffrey Chaucer, through
William Shakespeare, to the present day.
First IBM computer
Over two billion people are expected to click on to the internet by
year 2050, of which nearly half would use American-English. That
phenomenal growth is a far cry from the days the first IBM computer of
1956 - that bulky one ton monster came on stage. Today's fancy laptops
weigh only a few pounds. Easy access to search engines like Google, Bing
and Yahoo is expected to prepare everyone to survive the technological
innovation sweeping the world. The supremacy of English could only be
thwarted by major world-scale political and economical changes, such as
increasing importance of the European Union led by the French or a
coalition between Japan and China. Even then, they may need a
constructed language for international communication or rely on the
technology of machine translation to facilitate their own languages in
international communication. That would be a long shot.
Web use is also currently spreading at lightening speed among the
Chinese fluent in both English and Chinese languages. Within a decade,
they would put over 200 million users into the fold of web browsers,
half joining the American-English stream. Spanish language is a close
second with South American countries getting in at a brisk pace. India,
France, Germany and Russia are also in the running. American-English use
among web users in all these countries is also rising fast.
Why English gets affirmed
English is an invaluable weapon in the quest to compete and succeed.
Many people were just won over by a language that is expressive and
virile beyond comparison with home-spun idioms, ethnic phrases, even
humour-filled slang and the computerese, which many found to be
astoundingly user friendly and refreshing.
Getting your children master verbal, written and social skills to
advance in the workplace is considered vital by many. It is legendary
the way parents nurture children to hone in on those vital skills, to be
better prepared to get the cushy, plum jobs. After-school tuition has
become a hallmark of meritocratic aspirations. It is a fact that, when a
language has got the position of a universal language, the position
tends to be affirmed and extended by itself.
Since millions use English, others see its efficacy instantaneously
and want to possess it. It is no surprise, that English, the mother
tongue of nearly 60 million British people is now the first language of
over 320 million people living in US, Canada, Australia, Anguilla,
Antigua and Barbuda, as well as a second language of millions more
living in other British Commonwealth countries and elsewhere. The
imminent explosion in internet use in China and India would cause a
generational change as millions join the fold every year according to
projections by leading linguists.
Within the English stream many linguists predict a steady expansion
of web growth with American-English readership in the fore-front due to
its dynamic nature. Those of us attuned to Queen's English need not be
worried; as both versions of the language would exist side by side. The
British may have just lost their mojo a little bit. It is hard not to
sense the irrefutable surge of American-English.
Mixed borrowing and invention
The evolution of language in the West grew out of mixed borrowing and
invention. The thirteen colonies fought the British but also the
cultural dominance by a superior power. That motivational force enriched
the language. Numerous native Indian words became common parlance
immediately: bury the hatchet warpath, peace-pipe, moccasin, tomahawk
and powwow. Other borrowings came in unhindered as seen below: albino,
banana, breeze (Portuguese), boss, poppycock, spook (Dutch), liverwurst,
noodle, coleslaw, semester (German), levee, chowder, prairie (French),
sauna, zither, tundra (Finnish), bronco, meaning wild or rough,
cafeteria, cargo, patio, savvy or saber, to know, tornado and vamoose
(Spanish). The list is almost endless.
Expressions were born in many other ways. In the 19th Century,
prudishness influenced the English language; legs were called 'limbs',
and being pregnant 'in the family way'. Similarly, Americans, in their
reluctance to be politically incorrect, coined such euphemisms as
'senior citizen' or 'golden ager' for old people and 'nursing home
residents' for old folks.'
Many internet users find it hip to use expressions associated with
movies, best-sellers and television hits, Americanisms-sometimes
American slang-some have in large numbers found their way even among
British internet users, thus blurring the distinctions between the two
forms of the English language. Said one cynic:" the hip and the square
are merging at a brisk pace."
Spawned its own vocabulary
Internet growth is adding a new dimension to language development. It
is spawning its own vocabulary ushering in rudimentary beginnings of new
expressions at an alarming rate. Not all of them enter the main stream.
Some are mere puerile attempts to foster a cultic presence. But it is a
phenomenon worth looking at. See samples given below.
"Hi Dude, What'ssup. Just hanging out! Meet us at the beach-front.
I'm good with texting but this is giving me carpel tunnel, let's "go
primitive" (to phone) tomorrow at 8. I had parking karma (got ticketed)
Man, I just saw Lala in skin-tight canary-yellow stretch pants
wearing a beauty booger (nose ring). I needed hours of brain bleach
(therapy) to erase her face from memory.
"Hey, did you see Jane's newest Facebrag? (Photos in FaceBook) Eesh.
My boss almost caught me looking at porn at work, good thing I was Alt-Tabbing'(getting
back to normal work)."
It's not our cup of tea. Some may label that speech gobbledygook,
strangely it is a word first coined by the Texan Maury Mavericks about
nonsensical talk. She was appropriately enough, a descendant of the
Samuel Maverick, after whom the word maverick (a non-conformist) came
Words and expressions have poured in many ways: belittle, prioritize,
interface, incentivize, give me a break, and get off the dime, bottom
line, jump-start, baby-sit, gimmick, brain-storm, and brainwash etc.
just came in unnoticed. That list may be ten thousand words long. We
might see alt-tabbing, facebrag or brain bleach in use some day.
No hidden minefields
Nowadays, no language wizards had set up hidden mine fields to catch
people practising imperfect grammar. No puritan cop handcuffed anyone
for violating syntactic errors.
Everyone got off the dime. It was all that jazz all the time
explaining things without getting their heads chopped off by conformists
insisting on adherence to strict linguistic norms.
English language is refreshingly supple as many vibrant influences
feed it. In fact, several versions of 'Spell-check' are offered on
computers nowadays besides British-English: American English, Spanglish
and Jamaican English so on. The dialects spoken in the US alone are
The Hill-Billy spoken among the Appalachian mountain folks, Ebony by
the refreshingly warm Blacks in Oakland, California and the folksy
Southern dialects with the silky drawl were just a small segment of the
traits that went into the American lingo.
At one time the Greeks were the masters of prose. Then the Roman
Empire bested every one in style and stature. The British and Spaniards
surpassed everything for centuries as they towered over all other
languages in the West continuing the quest for communications supremacy.
English language has surpassed everyone else.
P.S. Estimates of how many people speak a language are quite general
and can vary considerably: Chinese speakers are from 900 to 1.1 billion,
English users are estimated at 380 to 450 million, Spanish from 150 to
over 300 million, Hindi from 150 to 350 million, and Russian from 150 to