The Future of Language

Recently, in the December 2015 issue of Popular Science magazine, there was an amazingly interesting article by John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University. In the article, McWhorter talked about how languages are changing–and being lost–due to technological advances and the way cultures have so much access to each other now. It was an eye opening discussion, where McWhorter claimed that of the six or seven thousand languages in the world today, in the next 100 hundred years, that number will drop to about six or seven hundred.  Wow.

More common languages will absorb the ones spoken in remote areas of the world, and instead of people needing to learn languages when they travel, McWhorter believes there will be instant-translation apps where people speak into their devices and the translation will be instantly communicated to listeners. That sure would make traveling a lot easier for people. But does it make us lazier?

You might think that the English language will become the dominant language spoken throughout the world, but this linguist claims it won’t be…not exactly.

“It’s going to be this weird language that originated from tribes drinking blood out of skulls somewhere in Denmark a very long time ago. That’s what we’re speaking now. The Chinese will be running the world, but they’ll be doing it in English, simply because English [got there first].”

John McWhorter

The emergence of a simplistic texting language on our phones is evidence enough for McWhorter to believe that our languages will also be reduced to less formal, and more creative versions of what we know now. Will that translate into how people speak, also? It will be interesting to see if that’s what happens.

To listen to more about this topic and the evolution of language, you might want to watch this fascinating TEDtalk by McWhorter from 2013.


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