Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post-Modern English?

I've been wondering (since a few short hours ago) what future English will look like. It seems that while we have no trouble differentiating between Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and Modern English, little thought has been given as to when the next bright line will be crossed. When will we enter Post-Modern English?


Of course, as any person would when facing such a philosophical conundrum, I immediately hopped on Google. The results for my first few searches were underwhelming. While the first few results seemed happy to discuss the future reach of English, few delved into its future content.It would either conquer Chinese/Spanish/Arabic and reign supreme, or it would flee before them.A binary proposition.

Thankfully, as with many such issues, the fault was on my end. By becoming more precise in my search terms (after a detour into predictive linguistics) the issue began to take on a bit more depth.The Economist's Johnson Language blog raises the issue, as does Scott at Cosmic Revolutions, bringing up an interesting idea that had been on my mind as well, the splintering of English into an Englishate family, a la Latin.Walter E. Myers. does, in my opinion, a good job of discussing what Future English will not be in his article The Future History and Development of the English Language. By tracing the issue through science fiction, Myers shows how limited our paradigms tend to be, and how many factors we ignore, when faced with this issue.

These factors are greatly expanded upon by David Graddol's The Future of English which provides us with an almost exhaustive detailing of the factors that might determine the range, value, and content of the English language in the future. I say almost exhaustive because, unlike the Economist, Graddol doesn't bring up the potential for economic and cultural decline (Which, to be fair, seemed far less likely at the time of the text's first publication in 1997). Nonetheless, a fertile ground is laid for future exploration.

Justin B. Rye offers us one such possibility with his conlang(s) Futurese, which traces a fictional development of American English through a thousand years of phonemic changes, vowel shifts, and innovations in orthography. His end result is indeed recognizable as English, but with a similar distance as the English of 1000 Anno Domini.

The future, the true, distant, abstract future, is often a difficult concept for us to grasp. When we make a serious reach for it, we often are content to just dip our toes into the future's kiddie pool: the >80 years, give or take a few decades, which God has allotted us. If we go beyond this, our ventures often turn into either polemic or fantasy. We live our own lives, fight our own struggles vicariously. In such cases, the object of our gaze is not the future, it is the present dressed in a fanciful guise.

To offer a likely glimpse at this true future would require knowledge without ego, the ability to extrapolate from the data presented without allowing ones personal prejudices and self concept to nudge the trend. This, I cannot give you. I would be remiss, however if I didn't venture a few guesses of my own.

Many commentators, past and present have suggested that vocal recordings will serve to petrify the language. This strikes me as highly unlikely. While said technology will provide a valuable historical archive for Modern English, the sheer amount of vocal recordings being made each day, as well as the decline in cultural relevance of all but the best works, will prevent these recordings from being able to maintain a strong grip on English's development. While certain movies and other recordings might make it into the future's cultural canon, the language thereof will likely recede as that of earlier such works: first into formal communication, then into literary conceit.

The major factor in the future of the English language will be the rate and extent of the West's economic and social decay, as well as the technological consequences thereof. This will not only effect the reach of the English language, but also its likelihood of splintering. Absent the global communications and transportation networks we take for granted today, regional differences could sprout into dialects, then full fledged languages. The cultural and class distinctions of today would likely be replaced with new geographically dictated separations that could, in time, generate identities every bit as strong as the French, Italian, and Spanish ones. Whether any form of our current English survives as Latin did will depend on the diplomatic and trade situation when the pieces fall.

On the distant marches of empire, English will probably lose its currency to local, or regionally hegemonic languages, surviving mainly through loanwords.Even on the margins of core English-speaking territories, aggressive cultural expansion by whatever remain, or subsequently rise as powers might push out the rump tongue.

If you've made it this far, I'd like to welcome you to Pravda Zvit'azi, and thank you for your interest. I can't make any promises yet about update schedule (expect sporadic) or content (expect eclectic) but I hope to be able to make some small contribution to your day whenever I can. I look forward to engaging with you, and hopefully having constructive and thought provoking dialogue. I welcome you to post your own guesses in the comments below!
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10 comments:

  1. Hmm interesting.. can you ever seen Firefly/Serenity with Nathan Fillion? It covers some future-english stuff.

    Also, and I'm just throwing this out there-- it takes a tough guy to have a blog with two shades of pink for the background. I assume you're a guy from your writing style.

    Have you ever heard of the pick-up artist movement? You should think about covering this in your blog.

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    Replies
    1. Also, can you integrate more pretty pictures into your blog posts?

      I'm not going to lie, I have the attention span of a goldfish.

      Delete
    2. Why, goldfish are well known for their vast attention spans! I'll have to up my word count, maybe add some dead languages and complex math.

      Delete
    3. Also, strangely enough, I've never seen Firefly, or maybe just portions of episodes. It was always one of those things that I knew I would like, but wasn't actually motivated to seek it out.

      Yes, I am a man, and I appreciate your appraisal of my physical and mental prowess. I do indeed have to face of with strong foes to keep up my dual wielded pink background.

      Also, what about the PUA movement would you like to see covered here? Tell me more.

      Delete
    4. Look up a guy named "RooshVII" or "RooshIX" or something Also there was an MTV show called like 'the pack-up artist' that had a guy with the name of like "Puzzle" or "Enigma" or something, you could talk about him.

      I think this is his picture...
      http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/834/jamiroquai.jpg

      This is assuming of course you on a male in your 20's, which is a huge assumption and unfounded thus far.

      Delete
    5. Lol, I'm pretty sure more than just males in their twenties know about the pickup artist scene. Apparently The Rational Male's (http://therationalmale.com/) excellent Rollo Tomassi has been married for almost that long (15yrs). What would you like me to cover about them, or the manosphere in general?

      Delete
    6. Hmm... this "manosphere" sounds promising, tell me more.

      Delete
    7. Well, as the principles of pickup got popularized, people started applying them to more than just in-field pickup.The concept of "inner game" was probably the first indicator of the growth of pickup beyond just lines, stances, kino. However, as people such as Roissy began to apply the principles of game to social commentary, game began to reach more people in more ways. Now the "manosphere" has become a blanket term covering everyone from old-school PUAs, to anti-feminists, to the MGTOW guys who have decided to foreswear dealing with women entirely.

      Delete
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