The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Two interesting posts on the subject by linguistics professor Geoffrey Pullum, "There Was No Committee" (2014), mostly about English, and "The Awful Chinese Writing System" (this Wednesday), mostly about Mandarin. Some excerpts:
Ph.D. students in countries like Finland or the Netherlands have (at least in my field) long been writing their dissertations in English rather than in Finnish or Dutch. But at undergraduate as well as graduate and professional levels, more and more non-English-speaking countries are making the decision to use what they are calling English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI)….
The burgeoning of English is pushing ever-larger numbers of small minority languages into extinction, and many linguists lament that. There are two sides to the issue, though. It saddens us linguists that so many grammatically fascinating and diverse languages in so many language families should be dying out, yet who are we to tell an African father, proud of raising his children to speak a multinational lingua franca like Swahili or English, rather than the local dialect of his traditional village, that he is wrong? …
The [Chinese writing] system is a millstone round the neck of the whole sinophone world, and should have been ditched decades ago….
[T]his horror-show of a writing system, with its crippling memorization burden for students and malign impediment to progress in science and industry, is the focus of so much intellectual investment and cultural pride that getting rid of it is out of the question. Intolerable though it is, it will continue to be tolerated—leaving English, with a spelling system that positively stinks, smelling almost like a rose.