A Language, like everything else, has to evolve to survive. Read the article to learn about languages that resisted change and how it impacted them as opposed to languages that welcomed changes.
There are many factors that can cause a stir in a language and subsequently influence many of its words to change. That is why nine of the top ten languages in the world have a specialized entity with a sole purpose of regulating and defending the language. The French has Académie Française, the Spanish have the Real Academia Española, Arabic has the Arabic Language International Council, and so on. The only one that does not have such an entity is English, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s take the French academy for example; one of its more recent objectives is to stop English words and terms from invading the French Language. That is why over the past years they have banned certain words and introduced official French alternatives. Such prohibited words as “email”, “blog”, “supermodel”, and many others. (The banned words section is 65 pages long). In 2013, the academy issued a decree banning the usage of the word “Hashtag” and forcing the term “mot-dièse” instead, which caused an outrage on Twitter. One of the reasons is that the term itself is not twitter-friendly because of the hyphen.
Most of these academies are seen as conservative and slow in adapting. Such academies are always struggling and trying to get more people to learn their language. Despite having no such governing body to regulate it, the English language is thriving. There are approximately over 1 billion people currently studying the language as a second or foreign language, with estimations that this number will be close to 2 billion by 2020.
The closest thing the English language has to an academy are Merriam-Webster’s and Oxford dictionaries, but their main aim is to be more comprehensive than anything else. Many people had a fit when the word “Selfie” was legitimized and made its way into the dictionary. Moreover, many grammar-freaks might have a heart attack if they know that they can no longer correct people when they wrongly use the word “literally” when they actually mean “figuratively”, because it was added as a second usage for the word.
Everything changes, so why do some people expect a language to stay static? A language is meant to evolve, to cope with tides in new ages and times. With so many forces pulling and shaping words and semantics, that is bound to eventually happen. Words go from positive to negative and vice versa, and other words take on a narrower meaning or a broader meaning.
One of the more interesting transformations is the word “Nimrod”. It is the name of a great king who was a very skillful hunter. This word changed in meaning because of Bugs Bunny, the Loony Tunes cartoon. Bug’s called Elmer Fudd (his clumsy nemesis) who was trying to hunt him down, in a clear show of insult and irony, as Nimrod, and that caught on over time. It went from meaning a skillful hunter to a dimwitted person because of a cartoon.
Obviously American pop culture has a huge role in altering and making the English language so dominant, thus allowing English words to infiltrate other languages.
To survive, a language needs to evolve and adapt, otherwise the language will die out or people will shift to speak another. Those languages that resisted change are no longer spoken.
One language becomes extinct every fourteen days, and it is expected that half of the languages currently existing will die out by the end of this century. Language is not just a means of communication; it carries the culture and the way of thinking of the people who speak it. The destiny of a language is often very tied with the destiny of the nation that speaks it. The Latin language went down with the Roman Empire, and German was once considered the language of science in the early 1900’s. The current dominance of English was sparkled by the ascension of the British Empire. A lot of people assume that Mandarin will be the language of the future, due to the rise of the Chinese no-longer-sleeping-giant.
Yet that will be very difficult as English has an even greater wave elevating it above other languages. It has become the language of innovation. Almost all new inventions are coined in English, and the top 10 programing languages are English based. Last but not least, all science submissions are currently widely published in English.
So as you can see, even without an official body to protect it and govern it, English is surpassing the rest, for now.