"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 08/16/15

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How English is Changing Languages in the World

For several years, English has been known as the language that borrows from almost every language. It borrows vocabulary, lexis, structure, and even idioms from any language it comes in contact with. As a result, the original Anglo-Saxon tongue has been so diluted that people who spoke Old English (that is, English prior to about 1100) and even Middle English (that is, English from about 1100 to 1450) would never make sense of the English we speak today.

In several columns (see, for instance, my series titled “TheAfrican Origins of Common English Words”) and in my recent book titled Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World, I have pointed out that more than 70 percent of the vocabularies of contemporary English is a hodgepodge of lexical influences from several languages.  English also has several loan translations that violate the natural rhythm and grammar of the language. Expressions such as “long time no see,” “have a look-see,” “a no-go area” are decidedly ungrammatical, but they are idiomatic nonetheless. They are English borrowing from Chinese. Similarly, saying “enjoy” after you give someone a meal, as people now do in restaurants and in airlines, is a conscious mimicry of the French bon appétit.

The examples are legion. But in the article you will read below by The Economist’s Johnson language column, this pattern is reversing: English is now influencing the vocabulary, structure, and idioms of languages across the world, as its influence as the world’s predominant language continues to grow. In a July 16, 2015 article titled “The influence of English,” Johnson talks about how English is influencing German and French. I hope you enjoy it as I did.

"GERMANS joke about their bad English. In Berlin, you can buy fridge magnets with German expressions over-literally translated into English, like “It is me sausage”—a word-for-word rendering of Es ist mir Wurst, or “it’s all the same to me”. “German Quatsch” on Twitter has many more. But educated Germans usually speak English quite well. The reality is that, to a deeper extent than commonly realised, German is changing under constant influence from English.

In “Denglisch”, as with its cousins Franglais and Espanglés, what most people notice is decades of word borrowing: le week-end, das Recycling, el jonrón (“home run”) and the like. Like it or hate it, borrowing of this kind is unlikely to stop; in a press conference yesterday in Berlin, on the possibility of the Greek government issuing IOUs as a kind of parallel currency, the English word “IOUs” was used about as many times as the perfectly good German Schuldscheine, in a press conference conducted entirely in German. (Of course the word “Grexit” was also in the air; the Germans have jokingly coined their own, Graustritt, but do not use it.)

Read the  rest of the article by clicking this link.


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