How Technology and Globalisation Are Changing Language As We Know It – In our everchanging lexical world, where languages twist and turn, and sometimes bend over backwards or die out to suit trends, cultural changes and technology, the future of the spoken and written word is difficult to predict.

Around the World

The influence of globalisation is operating in quicker and more complex ways, and creating a more connected world than ever before. This multi-cultural epoch that we live in affects language in significant ways, for wherever we go, we bring our language with us.

As the impact of the major global languages increases, it continues to pressurise local languages into adapting, and year by year we are seeing more languages bowing out. The extinction of many of Taiwan’s indigenous languages – from Ketagalan to Siraya – is a direct reaction to the spread of Mandarin in the country, and presents a hard- hitting reality for many local languages that this may also be their fate.

But could this extinction of local tongues follow suit on a global scale? Linguist, educationalist and communications professional Teresa Tinsley does not believe that the world will return to a ‘pre-Babel’state where we all speak one major language. Some linguists suggest that either English or Chinese will form the world’s lingua franca. In fact, many of the major languages inter-breed with the local colloquialisms and create a variant form of that language.

To understand the future of our global languages, one must trace back through pre-modern Europe’s history to take note of the rise and fall of Latin. The success of the Roman Empire propelled Latin throughout Europe, and kept Classical Latin alive as the standard written medium for the continent – long after the fallof Rome. But the Vulgar Latin used in speech continued to change and form new dialects. That, in time, gave rise to the modern Romance languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian – languages that emerged in their own right and became mutually unintelligible.

Singapore English

Today in Asia, there are similar examples of language evolution. Step forth Singapore’s street language, Singlish, a colloquial brand of English with words plucked primarily from English, Malay and Chinese, and tossed into a straight-to-the-point syntactical structure. Singlish is widely used by the locals and can be almost incomprehensible to Western English speakers – one can almost draw a parallel between it and the early development of the Romance languages. It is interesting to note that, despite the Singapore government’s strong encouragement that its citizens speak standard British English through the national ‘Speak Good English Movement’, Singlish has only continued to thrive. In fact, some Singlish words like ‘blur’, ‘wah!’ and ‘shiok’ have become so commonplace that the highly- respected Oxford English Dictionary has added them to its lexicon!

Check out Asian Geographic Languages of Asia Issue 5/2016 for more on Asian languages and dialects!
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Article by Oliver Jarvis

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