Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chinglish/Hinglish/Spanglish and the Death of English?

As more people around the world learn English, what's going to happen to he "purity" of the language? Wired magazine looks at the issue in a recent article in respect to China and its efforts to monitor English during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The author concludes that all languages evolve over time and that the Chinglish is likely to influence modern English usage as well.

While I was in India, Hinglish (a Hindi-English mix) is common. People liberally intersperse English into their Hindi (or Urdu or Kannada or Tamil, etc.) conversations and vice versa. Spanglish is another familiar amalgamation here in the US. In NYC, I experienced this all the time.

There are some confusing, frustrating and amusing misunderstandings that come from this richness and diversity of language. Purists will bemoan the loss of our linguistic purity, but looking at the history of the English language, I'm not so sure any such purity existed. English is a pretty promiscuous language and has incorporated lots of syntax and vocabulary from Latin, German, Arabic, etc. It's going to get confusing as English becomes even more of a world language, but I think the prospects are thrilling. Just as we have difficulty understanding Chaucer's English or the English of Beowulf, future generations of Chinglish/Hinglish/Spanglish or whatever else evolves, will have difficulty understanding our patterns of speech. Such is life.

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