Languages are dying. Which will remain?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Billy T, Sep 4, 2012.


Languages are dying. Which will remain 2000 years from now??

  1. English

    6 vote(s)
  2. Mandarin

    4 vote(s)
  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    English clearly has a large lead over Mandarin now mainly as most global businesses and software use it, but China is growing more rapidly, has the most money, and many people are learning Mandarin, my US grandson for one, as the future does seem to belong to China. Many more Chinese are learning English, as it is clearly dominate for a few generations more in commerce and internet, etc. – but that can change* as Latin did if China is economically dominate long enough.

    An article on Brazil´s Indians in 27Aug to 2Sept 12 issue of Journal da USP (at for those who can read Portuguese) tells that Brazil´s Indians still speak 274 different languages in 305 different tribes! I am quite sure that almost none will still be spoken living languages 100 years from now. That thought made me wonder, if there will be more than two living languages 1000 years from now. I doubt there will be. I think only Mandarin and English will be in common use then, but in 2000 years only one will be. Which do you think is the “last language” humans will use? And why?

    *A clever Chinese American former resident of Hollywood area, moved to China more than five years ago. He started a small English to Mandarin translation business, now serving many famous English speakers who want to have exposure in China, especially in the Chinese versions of “social networks”
    For example, Paris Hilton has 600,000 Chinese “followers” for her daily** “twits.” There is huge commercial potential for promoting products in China where population is more than four times greater than the US´s is and real incomes (purchasing power) are growing by double digits annually instead of shrinking more than 1% annually as for the US´s middle class (7.2% drop since 2007)

    **As her first was made just a few months ago, that is rapid growth. It was to congratulate China first female astronaut and ended like: “Go girl power, Go!”

    PS - I´m leaning towards voting Mandarin but holding off until I see some arguments for English being used 2000 years from now.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2012
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  3. Balerion Banned Banned

    2000 years from now? Neither, I assume. Language is a thing often in flux, no?
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  5. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    It'll be a combination of English, Spanish and Mandarin.

    I call it Manglish. Or Spingdarin. You pick.
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  7. Gustav Banned Banned

    so? the orthography and construction of old english differs from the modern and yet is still called english.
    languages tend to evolve over time but retain a core identity. i doubt very much english will be know as german or a dialect of

    an unwarranted and illogical assumption. it is unrealistic to project the rise of the tahitian empire or any other marginal nation that is currently in existence which is exactly what you do when you assert that neither chinese or english will retain primacy in the future. i mean what do you expect? klingon hegemony?

    a more productive approach would be to plot the trajectory of civilizations to a shorter time frame rather than uncritically accept the op's two millennia and flail around helplessly in the wind

    some rigor please
    this is not religion
    K'adlo! (thanks in klingon)
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Agreed. By surviving I didn´t mean unchanged, just that the version then spoken evolved mainly from English or Mandarin. "Mainly" as it surely will have borrowed many words from others and also invented new words, like "lase" the verb from LASER which is from Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, which in turn comes for the first version Maser (M being for Microwave Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation).

    I doubt that if I were frozen and revived 2000 years from now and the language spoken then evolved from English, I would be able to understand any sentence spoken in it except perhaps their version of "help" etc. with context clues aiding me. However, I bet the grammar and word order, etc. will still clearly show which it came from.
  9. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Billy T

    Gee! I wonder if humans will still be around 2000 years from now? And here you are nitpicking the language that might be in use if there are still some humans around. The potential for some kind of world disaster that will kill off billions of humans is high, so whatever language is being spoken may have more to do with survivors than anything else.

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  10. superstring01 Moderator

    2000 years from now? It'll be some electronic language that we transmit from vaguely independent minds within the completely interconnected web that we're are endeavoring towards and will likely reach by century's end. It's unlikely any language will be completely wiped out before then.

    That said, the notion that (between now and then) the langua franca won't be English is pretty silly. The Chinese--like the Germans and the Japanese--have accepted the global standard and aren't even bothering anymore in denying it. The Chinese are busy buying into the "English" fad in how obsessively they learn it. The Gaokao is something like 25% based on English knowledge. How many standardized university entrance tests around the world are likely to include Mandarin before English has completely solidified its position? (which, if it hasn't, will definitely happen within the next two generations) And remember, most people around the world only have the option of learning ONE foreign language, this means that Spaniards, Germans, Indians (who will outnumber the Chinese very shortly), Pakistanis, Mexicans and Saudis have only so much time in the day to squeeze a foreign language into their brain (along with the "native" language, reading, writing, mathematics, history, economics, computers, and other vital subjects). Which one do you think they are going to pick? Mandarin--that is really only spoken as the "official" language of one major country, or English--that is the official language of dozens of countries (including the most powerful nation and three of the most powerful regional powers [UK, Canada and Australia]), and which already has the status of de facto official language of business, maritime law, international aviation, tourism, science and the arts. You go with the language that guarantees income potential TODAY and right beyond the horizon, not one that may become handy at sometime in the future--a future that is not yet written and a future that may well still hold English as dominant.

    To expound on what Jay Walker already points out:
    --The world is bringing English up, the US and the UK aren't forcing it on anybody.
    --The Chinese just aren't exporting Mandarin and by the time they get around to it, whatever momentum already exists, will be even greater.
    --The current global superpower and the next great economic superpower after China already utilize English and really see no interest in learning it beyond the needs to teach their own regionally important languages (Spanish in the US / Standard Hindi, English and local dialects in India).
    --The Chinese are already trying to knock India off its pedestal of largest English speaking countries.
    --English already completely dominates the non-English speaking nations in the Americas.
    --English already dominates the sciences and numerous international organizations.
    --When non-English speakers of differing languages talk, they speak English (i.e. German businessman and a Korean Supplier).

    Now, of course there's the argument that many languages have held sway at different times (Latin, French, Spanish, etc), but none of them ever held sway in a time where the entire surface of the world was a part of that momentum, in a time where eCommerce and the sciences have so completely dominated life and when--in fact--almost all nations on earth have clearly made up their minds and when changing their minds would constitute having to go back to square one in many ways or show deference to China (something India--who's leading the pack in English education--Japan, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines are loath to do).

    The decision has unconsciously already been made. English as the unspoken official language of the world is a [French!] fait accompli and now we simply will continue on that path -- NOT because of some weird cultural imperialism but because momentum and convenience demand it.

    Jay Walker's "English Mania"

    Extended version:

    So, um. After seeing that, how many people doubt it will be English?

  11. Balerion Banned Banned

    It's really going to depend on who the world powers are. We might be able to say China's going to dominate economically for the next few decades--or beyond--but millennia? Who knows?
  12. Gustav Banned Banned

    what you are agreeing with is that neither will prevail. not english nor mandarin

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    According to one survey, the percentage of modern English words derived from each language group are as follows:
    Latin (including words used only in scientific / medical / legal contexts): ~29%
    French: ~29%
    Germanic: ~26%
    Others: ~16%

    so lets say in the future we throw in 10% of hindi
    will it be know as hindglish?

    what not to love about commonsense


    what bearing does that have on the de facto lingua franca of the world?
    the largest gdp determines primacy of language?


    so you basically have nothing worthwhile to contribute
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2012
  13. superstring01 Moderator

    It happens from time to time.

    None and even if it did, then--of course you know this--several things have to be considered:
    --China is part of the "pulling English up" crowd not the "petitioning another lingua franca" crowd.
    --India (second by 2050) and her political/economic potential has already selected English as a primary language for Industry, Education and Government.
    --If one combines the GDP of the EU (has selected English as the standard for business) with all the other English "quasi-primary" nations (South Africa, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Israel + about ten more) along with the GDP's of all "English Primary" nations (Canada, USA, UK, Australia & New Zealand and a host of smaller nations) you get a GDP far greater than China will ever have.
    --If you consider the independent pull of the "not loving China" crowd (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Mongolia), they will all vote with the "English as the global lingua franca" crowd.
    --It's not like the day that China becomes the largest nation by GDP, suddenly the USA will fall off the face of the earth. China is in for some very rocky roads ahead and the USA still has a lot of might (political, economic and cultural); and will continue to have that influence for the next foreseeable century.

    No matter how you look at it, it's done. All there's left to do is sit around and wait for the doubters to wake up.

  14. Gustav Banned Banned


    in 2112, france is declared a cultural heritage. any contact with the natives takes place under strict supervision and stringent regulations
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Most defenses posted as to why English will evolve to the language of 2000 years hence, if translated into Latin and set between years 450 AD and 50BC would be equally strong and valid, yet Rome and Latin died (or more accurately evolved*). Since those arguments were good for only about 500 years, why should they be valid for 2000 more? (Especially if dollar collapses in next three or less years as I expect, and the RMB remains strong as I also expect it will.)

    The only significant exception (an argument valid for English now and not for Latin back then) may be that English is global and Rome´s was only:

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    But that is mainly because back then to send message from one side to the other took more than 30 days instead of less than 3 seconds.
    "Timewise" Rome had a much bigger world under its control. Certainly there are now many more non-English speakers to convert than there were back then non-Latin speakers to convert, but of course the "conversion tools" (internet, Movies, etc.) are much more powerful and quick. I still don´t know which way to vote.

    * Not into English which has quite different structure, but into the "Latin Languages," like Spanish.
  16. Gustav Banned Banned


    i see the klown's extinction, string's clicks and beeps, geoff's amalgam and my refusal.
    what defenses do you refer to?

    yes. invoking historical precedent to predict possible futures is not a viable model in this case. isolation was easy back then simply by virtue of geography. nowadays it usually takes a deliberate and sustained effort
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2012
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I found superstring01´s post 7 arguments most persuasive so mainly was trying to under cut them by noting most were valid for Latin too.

    BTW Mandarin speakers already use the internet more than English (first language) speakers do and their number (only 38.3% of population) can at least double:

    Rank, Country, Internet users, % of population, year of data
    1 China 511,963,000 38.30 2011
    2 USA 242,614,880 77.86 2011
    3 India 119,749,712 10.07 2011
    4 Japan 101,376,528 79.53 2011
    5 Brazil 88,917,974 45.00 2011
    6 Russia 69,837,538 49.00 2011
    7 Germany 67,621,622 83.00 2011
    8 France 51,962,632 79.58 2011
    9 United Kingdom 51,412,657 82.00 2011
    10 Nigeria 47,143,356 28.43 2011


    I.e. 511,963,000 > 242,614,880 + 119,749,712 + 51,412,657 So I think the "English dominates the internet" arguments may be false or at least weak in a few years.
    Hell, as I noted in the OP, Paris Hilton has 600,000 Chinese followers for her daily twits and made her first twit in Chinese only a few months ago. It congratulated the first Chinese female astronaut and ended like: "Go girl power, GO!"

    Because Chinese population is more than four times larger than the US is AND Chinese purchasing power is growing annually by double digits while US middle class´s buying power is shrinking by more than 1% annually (7.2% since 2007) the world´s greatest market is now in China. There are huge profits to be made in Chinese social media with promotions, in Mandarin, of products for sale.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2012
  18. Gustav Banned Banned

    most of it was a commentary of current trends and probably a short term projection
    the first bit however seemed to reflect kurzweil's accelerating returns, exponential growth and wait....wait...the singularity.
  19. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    False premise - Latin remained the international lingua franca and language of culture until the 1800's (up until that time, the majority of all books printed every year were written in Latin, for example).

    More to the point, Latin was only ever the language of the (relatively small) educated and governing classes. Your average peasant never had any need to communicate with anybody more than a stone's throw away, and so Latin was never really the standardized, everyday language in that area that English is all over the world today.

    Only because the world population is larger - the percentage of people who speak English today is very similar to the percentage of people who lived in Rome at its peak (around 1/6 in each case - and, again, that assumes that everyone living in Rome was speaking Latin which is overgenerous).

    Moreover, the demand for standardized language to enable global communication is much, much higher. There was no issue of random peasants in Rome wanting or needing to speak with random peasants on the other side of the world. Huge chunks of humanity existed in disconnected states, pretty much totally ignorant of one another's existences, back then. These days, it's standard for successful businesses to have operations located in dozens of countries on every continent.
  20. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    In the first place, you are assuming that Chinese internet users are not using English on the internet, and likewise discounting a considerable number of English-speaking internet users elsewhere in the world (English having been the lingua franca of the internet since its inception).

    In the second place, it is not a simple question of numbers - even if China has a billion internet users speaking Chinese on the internet, they're largely only reaching other people in China with that connectivity so it isn't necessarily spreading the language. Use English on the internet, and you can be confident that your speech will be accessible to people all over the world - use Mandarin, and you're limited mostly to an audience in China. Even if that audience consists of a ton of people, that doesn't necessarily add up to pressure for others to speak Chinese, any more than the fact that there are already a ton of Chinese people speaking Chinese languages to one another in China already does.

    Paris Hilton doesn't speak a word of Mandarin. Her posts to Sina Weibo are done in English, with a Mandarin translation then added on by workers at the site (an added cost that applies to any market which refuses to use the global lingua franca). This process exposes Chinese people to English, but not the other way around.
  21. Gustav Banned Banned

    i dare anyone make that statement and keep a straight face
  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    To gustav & quadraphonics Yes its true, that Paris Hilton* knows very little if any Mandarin but you did not read:
    I no longer have link to the source or remember his name. I read about this and others making good jobs for them selves in China only a few days ago.

    Also I certainly agree that two Chinese exchanging twits in Mandarin does not spread the language to others. My claim was not that, but based on the huge market of China, and fact many non-Chinese are coming there to profit from it. If you have no good US job, but some skills and can speak Mandarin, there are many jobs waiting for you in China. Most are going to Chinese Ex-pats returning to China, but not all.

    * BTW, I don´t think she knows much Portuguese either, but a little more than a year ago she became the main representative of a minor Beer company in Brazil and doubled their market share in ~6 months.** She got banned from TV as in one ad, fresh from her shower and only towel clad, she leaned out of window to reach for her beer. And guess what, the towel slipped part way off showing too much for the TV moral police. (Not as much as parades in public down the street at carnival time, but TV is more strict at least in prime time when kids are watching. I did not see the ad, but read about it in newspaper. She got free coverage in newspapers nearly every day for herself and her beer.)

    She is not the dumb blond she appears to be (very rich and very unconventional yes). I suspect she wants to be well known in China as that is where most of the new hotels in the world are going up. Newly rich Chinese are swelling the domestic travel / tourist industry at an unbelievable rate. - "Boeing Co. predicted in a recent report that China will need a total of 72,700 new commercial airline pilots and 108,300 maintenance technicians by the year 2030. ... the largest demand for pilots and technicians will be in the Asia Pacific region with an expected need for 182,300 pilots and 247,400 technicians." Quote from:
    And BTW, most are coming from the US with their families and all will be learning Mandarin - Economic leadership is pushing learning of Mandarin, but the pilots and ground crews are only a minor example.

    ** They added a small suggestive line drawing image of nude lady on the bottle label, and it is still there, but Paris has gone on to other things.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 5, 2012
  23. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member


    They just keep coming.

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