The rise of English as the global lingua franca. Is the world heading towards greater monolingualism or new forms of plurilingualism?


English has become the most influential language for international discourse (Weber 1997, Graddol 2010) and it is tempting to foresee a largely monolingual future at the international level, where other languages become irrelevant. Such a simplistic view sees the adoption of English as something universal and uniform with little room for variation, local identity, or other lingua francas. Data shows that other lingua francas are not inevitably in decline. Diverse languages – e.g. Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Hindi, French – continue to be important regionally or in certain discourse contexts (Weber 1997, Ostler 2010, Ronen et al. 2014) and on the internet. In this paper, we look at recent data from a variety of recent sources (Ronen et al. 2014,Olivié et al. 2015,) in an attempt to examine the situation regarding languages and their influences in the world today. In particular, we will attempt to take into account the fact that much language distribution is today no longer tied in with territorial dimensions. New media such as the internet, as well as mass migration between countries, have made it less easy to identify specific langugaes with precise geographical areas. Furthermore although the world is increasingly globalised, significant regional divisions still exist in the use of media (especially in the case of China) making it difficult at present to make direct comparisons about language use. In this complex scenario, it is also apparent that as English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) variations emerge and gain in influence (see Seidlhofer 2011), the identity of English will change and come to become itself a reflection of a plurilingual reality in which speakers typically have at their disposal a repertoire of different languages

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v15p129

Keywords: ELF; Lingua Francas; Plurilingualism; Global Language Networks


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