RIP English?

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Many people are saying English is dead because adherence to grammar rules is diminishing.

I have a degree in this language that is apparently dying, and I am a writer, who writes in this dying language. I do care about it. But I am incapable of sharing the sentiments of those who insist changing grammatical structures indicate the death of the language. In fact, I’m inclined to posit that the rapid changes occurring within English indicate that it is alive and kicking in a way it never has before.

There are many languages that are completely, legitimately dead. Languages such as Latin, Koine and Attic Greek, Ugaritic, Babylonian and Ancient Hebrew are dead languages. How do we know they are dead? No one learns these languages as their native tongue. You can study them in universities, but there are not people who grow up speaking these languages. And even if you were to study them at university, you would learn to read them, not speak them, because the only place you will find these languages is in ancient writings, simply because no one uses them in speech.

Funny thing about languages that no one speaks: they don’t change. The hallmark of a living language, then, is one that changes. English is not dead. Many people learn it as their native language, and since people are speaking it, it changes.

This is not to say it isn’t on the brink of changing so much as to become a different dialect of itself. Technology has contributed to some of the most rapid linguistic changes English has seen (or any other language for that matter). So perhaps future historians will call 21st C. English ‘Late English’ (after Old and Middle) and reappropriate ‘Modern’ for their own version. (Or perhaps they will be speaking SpangloMandarin by then).

English is, of course, doomed to die eventually, like everything else. Its death, however, is more likely to be a result of globalization than the fact that so few people choose to utilize proper grammar on a regular basis (if they even know it). But I don’t hear people decrying globalization as a great contributor to the death of English the way they do with OMG and split infinitives.

One thought on “RIP English?

  1. I love thinking that I am perhaps speaking what will later be referred to as Late English. And that maybe my great-grandkids will speak SpangloMandarin.

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