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Nick Gillespie passe en revue une histoire de la langue des rois.

NEXT: The Language of Empire

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  1. I offer one caveat to Mr Gillespie’s conclusion: if Africa ever gets its act together, the French language could regain much of its lost ground.

  2. James’ retort is an excellent one.

  3. …no one is expecting France to be a major player in the centuries to come.

    No? I’m working for a French company, Royal Canin – makers of high quality dog and cat food. Apparently they’ve dominated the pet-food market in Europe for decades. Now we are expanding at an ever increasing rate here in the US. Not to mention operations in the far corners of the globe, everywhere from Russia to South Africa.

  4. Warren:

    LOL!…….oh wait, your serious.

  5. How did the French language fall so far? Read War & Peace – all the elites in Europe spoke French as a matter of course in those days. Was it anti-Napoleon backlash? Do I have to read the book to find out? Will Jessica discover Chester’s affair…? Will Benson discover Chester’s affair? Will Benson care?
    These questions – and many others – will be answered in the next episode of Hit & Run.

  6. the French Academy which polices the language but which cannot enforce its rules,

    Rule of thumb. If you have to defend your whatever (language, religion, economy, culture, government, art) from the people using it, it’s on the way out.

    Yes, I remember the U.S. has an “English as the official language” movement.

  7. Firstly, why must you people insist on capitalizing that word as if it were proper?

    Secondly, Warren, pate has been around a long time and your firm certainly has not cornered the potted meat animal food market.

  8. Guy,
    I’ll take your word for that. I’ve only been with the company a few months. I can tell you this. Here in Missouri we can’t make kibble fast enough. We run 24/7. Last week we had our first 300 ton day.

  9. Forget who it was (Casimir?) who said that Broken English is the most widely used language in the world.

    Languages rise and fall with the empires that use them, obviously. They manage to hang on in certain cul-de-sacs that freeze them–French being the imperial court language in Russia long after the fall of Napoleon is one example. “Knowing French” has, up to relatively recent times, been a marker of the upper class in America (due to the cachet of foreign vacations and summering abroad.)

    We’ve seen a trajectory in the west of Latin–>French–>English. It’s a very slow process–over 100 years or so.

    Actually, it will be interesting to see if Chinese or Spanish/Portuguese will be the next contender. It’s not so much how many people speak a particular language, but how many people “need” to use it in international trade. There are enough Spanish/Portuguese-speaking countries in South America that this could provide the root of the impetus–the question is whether the markets in South America are big enough to drive the push in that direction.

    Another advantage of a Spanish/Portuguese/French axis is they are all languages that are very close to each other.

    (I’m such a reactionary I want to go back to Latin, but that’s because I love the language.)

  10. I think it’s a bit much to suggest that French is on its way out. It’ll of course continue to lose ground to English and probably Chinese and Spanish as a second language, but I doubt it’ll lose much ground in those countries where it’s actually spoken, except maybe Quebec. It’ll continue to be important as long as 1) French companies are really competitive (internationally at least) and 2) France is the second or third largest EU economy.

  11. french will never again be the dominant international laguage as long as they insist on calling numbers like 97 “four twenty ten seven.”

  12. French regaining its former status around the world is not likely, but I hardly see it dying out. It’s still spoken widely and is relatively easy to learn. Seriously, I’d pick German to disappear before French. or Italian. A loss of any of them would be sad, in my opinion.

    If I had to bet on a language being dominant in the future, i’d bet on Spanish. it’s growing and it’s a lot easier to learn than Hindi or Mandarin or Cantonese.

    Interestingly, I once saw a map/report/article that displayed how regional accents and dialects in North America have become more pronounced – rather than less – as we have become more mobile and interactive with one another. I wonder if the same phenomenon would be seen on a global level. (I think it was in The Greatest Magazine in the World aka National Geographic – but I could be wrong.)

  13. Spanish is going nowhere. With precious few exceptions, the Spanish-speaking world is composed of shitty backwaters. Spanish’s main influence over the next century will be on the pronunciation of American English.

    French isn’t coming back to prominence, either. And I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Africa to get its act together.

    Mandarin will continue to increase in importance, but the main problem is that Mandarin is extremely difficult to learn to read and write. You think English spelling is bad? Wait until you have to memorize several thousand characters just to have reading facility. So, Mandarin has a natural limit there, too.

    – Josh

  14. The real question is which language(s) seem to be expanding. English is still the #1 language of business worldwide, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. India has the fastest-growing economy of any large country, but that English is the lingua franca there, given how many zillions of local languages there are in that country. China is an interesting case, but they don’t seem to be working to spread the use of Mandarin.

  15. Languages only die out when they don’t have a nation to prop them up – and in many cases not even then. And nations are a lot more stable than in earlier times, so I wouldn’t count on languages like French or German “dying out” any time soon.

    but the main problem is that Mandarin is extremely difficult to learn to read and write

    Not really. It takes longer but it’s well within the human capacity for language. Also, the characters aren’t as random-looking as they appear at first sight. Most of them are a combination of two base characters, one with a sound clue and the other a meaning clue. The sound clue may be 500 years out-of-date, though.

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