The Future of Global English (400 Years in the Future)

MicroEssay by Paul JJ Payack

The conquest of Global English is nearly complete. It is impossible to hold back this tide. The Tsunami of English has already swept over the earth. The question now is how to adjust to this new reality.

I have several suggestions. The first would be to master the language. Yes, acknowledge the sea-change, disassociate yourself from any political misgivings — and get on with it. Global English is here and now — and here to stay. Global English will reside, preside and thrive. At least in some form. Here are some possible threads of evolution (or devolution) of the language over the next 400 years. I chose this perspective because that is the same temporal distance we are from the days of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

Keeping in mind that the best way to predict the future is to read the past, here are a number of differing scenarios, one of which will be the future of Global English

1. Cyber English: The robots take control of the language. This form of English would be ‘clipped’ and very precise (no ‘fuzzy’ logic here). Come to think of it, this would be a great leap backward to the time of the King’s English, as spoken in, say, Colonial India.

2. The Romanticization of English: The Language devolves into various local dialects that in time become robust languages in themselves. The precedent for this, of course, is Latin splintering into the Romance Languages (Italian, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish). As Latin is still the Official Language of the Vatican City state, English will remain spoken in certain enclaves in North Carollina, western Virginia, and in the Desert Southwest.

3. Return to Proto-Indo-European. Not as outlandish as it might seem, as the Green movement decries the technological basis of much of Global English, and in a Back-to-Basics promotes the original P-I-E as a ‘green language’.

4. English captured by the Chinese: the Middle Kingdom strikes back and begins to stake a claim in English Language ownership, much as America has done so during the last century. The Chinese prove to be excellent caretakers of the language and develop many interesting ways to extend it throughout the Earth and beyond.

5. Revenge of the Nerds: Leetspeak Strikes Back. The Nerds control the language. All words have dozens of spellings and meanings. Letters, numbers and symbols intermix. Exposition is heavily encrypted. The precedent: The English language before the Noah Webster and the OED. Shakespeare’s many variations on his name is mere child’s play to the near-infinite variety of spelling your children’s children will be able to use for their names.

6. The Number of Words in the English Language
Academics will no longer fret at counting the number of words because the conquest of English will no longer be tainted by political, cultural, and social concerns. Once freed from these concerns, Everyone will be free to count words in the same manner that their scientific colleagues count the number of galaxies, stars and atomic nuclei.

We will then be able to count ALL the words: every name of every fungus, all the technical jargon, YouthSpeak, all the –Lishes, everything.

Dictionaries will not longer be the arbiters what’s a word? Questions of standing the test of time will be rendered inoperable. Words will bubble forth as a frothy sea-foam of insight and meaning. If a word is used by millions or even thousands of influential elites, regardless of class or any form of identity (gender, ethnic, class, national, or social) it will be deemed a word and recorded for posterity.

7. There will be no words only thoughts. This is a rather difficult scenario to explore, since words all but disappear. Dictionaries will be replaced by something much more ethereal, sort of like a directory of dreams, ideas and ideals.

The language will swell to tens of millions of ‘words’ and the fact of its crossing the 1,000,000, word barrier will be looked upon something quite quaint that happened in the ‘classic days’ of ‘Global English language (long before it assumed its then-current exalted position. In all probability, the words in this essay may seem closer to the works of Shakespeare and those of the King James Bible than those of the, say, twenty-fifth Century.

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