this post was submitted on 14 May 2024
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Is the Tower of Babel still affecting us or something?

Edit:

We have 8 billion people, yet the best we could muster for the most total speakers of a language is under 2 billion, including non-natives...

  1. English (1,452 million speakers) First language: 372.9 million Total speakers: 1.4+ billion According to Ethnologue, English is the most-spoken language in the world including native and non-native speakers.

https://www.berlitz.com/blog/most-spoken-languages-world#:~:text=1.,English%20(1%2C452%20million%20speakers)&text=According%20to%20Ethnologue%2C%20English%20is,native%20and%20non%2Dnative%20speakers.

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[–] [email protected] 73 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago) (1 children)

I'd argue that by your own criteria, English is that language.

[–] [email protected] 27 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago) (2 children)

Less then a quarter of people speak English, so not even close.

[–] [email protected] 33 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago) (2 children)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-speaking_world

Including people who speak English as a second language, estimates of the total number of Anglophones vary from 1.5 billion to 2 billion.

So you’re right: one quarter of people at most. Nonetheless that’s remarkable. Too bad it’s due more to subjugation than cooperation.

[–] Sir_Fridge 4 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Nowadays it's probably also because of the dominance of American culture, especially online.

[–] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

Our perception of it is also highly distorted due to the bubble we live in. Chinese are living in a different kind of bubble where everyone can more or less understand each other, as long as they stick to the written form. The languages may be different, but they are written using the same system, which makes communication possible. Also, the Great Firewall of China keeps Chinese people inside that bubble and foreigners outside it.

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

Awfully generous of the UK to go out of its way to respect Mongolia. I guess you gotta honor that Klingon code.

[–] [email protected] 12 points 2 months ago

Well fuck me sideways I thought it was more than that.

[–] weeeeum 49 points 2 months ago

Because for most of modern history, we were very isolated from the "outside world".

Other than the last 200 years, the best "internet" was a dude on a horse. Since groups of humans developed quite independently of each other, they developed their own languages. However in the modern age this is changing rapidly, with many languages and dialects coalescing into one, consistent, language. Additionally many countries have tons of English speakers which is a defacto "universal language". Most big cities will have english translation for many signs and important documents.

[–] [email protected] 43 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago) (1 children)

That's not how language or communication work. Humans develop language in real time and in small cohorts. You are lucky if you can understand youth slang by the time you hit 40 and you want to force an artificial lingua franca on four billion people?

Plus, who said language uniformity is a positive? Linguistic diversity is a feature, not a bug. Language is tied to culture, identity and a whole bunch of antrhopological elements. Entire ethnicities are defined by their language. It's bad enough that US cultural imperialism has forced half the planet to watch the same movies and TV shows, why would we do the same with language? If you ask me, there's way too much English out there as it is.

[–] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago

It’s bad enough that US cultural imperialism has forced half the planet to watch the same movies and TV shows

I have a comm for you

[–] [email protected] 31 points 2 months ago

Erm erm, one sec.

~Love is the Universal language~

Ok you can crucify me now xD

[–] [email protected] 30 points 2 months ago (1 children)

You need a reason for a large group to choose to maintain a single language over over smaller groups creating their own.

Look at Latin, it stayed mainly cohesive due to the Roman Empire and splintered off as the empire collapsed and the necessity for commoners to maintain communication across thousands of miles dwindled.

English is the current lingua francia because the dominant nation has been speaking English for the past two hundred years and created a pop culture market that is both large and rich, creating a positive feedback loop making the market larger and richer.

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago (1 children)

English is the current lingua francia because the dominant nation has been speaking English for the past two hundred years and created a pop culture market

Cute that you think it's the U.S. and it's little movies that are responsible for English being widely spoken, and not the bloody history of British imperialism being forced on half the planet

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago (1 children)

I mentioned the bloody imperialism in the first half of the sentence.

[–] [email protected] 28 points 2 months ago (1 children)
[–] [email protected] 22 points 2 months ago

You as a 8.1 billion population have to come together and decide as a group and the enact it. If we couldn’t even stop Covid which is still around you think we can do something like this?

[–] mx_smith 14 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Wasn’t there a language created called Esperanto that was supposed to be the world language.

[–] [email protected] 12 points 2 months ago (3 children)

For a tiny language, I really like toki pona, but it's meant to be a minimal artistic language, more than an IAL (international auxiliary language).

Last I checked tho, Globasa looks really interesting. The way that they add new vocabulary, and have a good representation of world languages, seems to work well.

Esperanto is also good, but when my partner tried to learn it, they were weirded out by some of it's quirks, like noun declinations based on whether it's a subject or object, that seems unecessary.

[–] [email protected] 6 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Yeah I feel that for better or worse Esperanto hasn’t reached a large enough mass to justify accepting its quirks and indo-eurocentrism, when we know we can do better now.

[–] [email protected] 5 points 2 months ago (1 children)

For sure. A dissapointing number of IALs have nearly all their vocab from european languages, but there are a few that try earnestly to source their vocab from a wide set of language families. Any global initiative for an IAL needs to have a global vocabulary set to have any hopes of being introduced.

[–] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago (1 children)

If you choose vocabulary that is culturally neutral, then that vocabulary is not easily recognisable.

There's no workaround for that trade-off.

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Recognizeable for whom, is the question. The majority of IALs to date have had a highly eurocentric vocabulary, so they can't be recognizeable to even a plurality of the world.

[–] [email protected] -1 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Correct reasoning, incorrect facts.

46% of the world speak Indo-European languages as a mother tongue.

Can't do better than that. No other option comes close.

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago (2 children)

Aren't you Irish? You know the English colonizers did their best to wipe out the Irish language and replace it with the one you're advocating for right???

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago) (2 children)

know the English colonizers did .... right???

Nooo I didn't actually know that and needed an enlightened person such as yourself to tell me 🙄🙄

Tá mé tinn de bheith ag glacadh comhairle stráinséara. Imagine some blan started lecturing you about haitian history and how it should affect your opinions, wouldn't you at least tell them to fuck off?

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago (1 children)

So why are you advocating for the displacement of the majority of the world's language families based on european languages popularity it gained through colonial displacement?

The majority of the world don't speak european languages.

[–] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

So why are you advocating for the displacement of the majority of the world’s language families based on european languages popularity it gained through colonial displacement?

Same reason you are advocating wife-beating (i.e. I never said anything like that)

The majority of the world don’t speak european languages.

Correct. That's was our starting point: there's no language that the majority of the world do speak.

Indo-European is spoken by a 46% minority.

About 19% of the world's population speak the Indo-Iranian branch alone. It's by far the largest of the 8 branches by number of speakers. By number of languages (which includes tiny languages) it comprises about ⅔ of the family –

For example there are 884 million speakers of Hindi/Urdu + Bengali + Marathi + Gujarati + Odia + Punjabi in India, and Pakistan is almost all Indo-European (Indo-Aryan and Iranic).

Agus in theannta sin, tá Gaeilge (teanga Ind-Eorpach/Ceiltís) ag 0.0002125% den daonra domhanda!

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago (1 children)

Kind of wild that you use Haiti as an example here, considering the european genocide of the Taino people, as well as the european importation of african slaves, two groups that didn't speak european languages, and had their languages erased by the same process you're advocating for.

[–] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

w pa ayisyen?

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago

I never said anything approaching the words your putting in my mouth.

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

When I was a teen I really wanted to learn Esperanto but never got around to it. Globasa seems extremely interesting though, maybe I’ll finally give one of these languages a try.

[–] [email protected] 1 points 1 month ago

Esperanto is also good, but when my partner tried to learn it, they were weirded out by some of it’s quirks, like noun declinations based on whether it’s a subject or object, that seems unecessary.

That sounds interesting. Esperanto has no noun-declinations, it's an agglutinating language, you don't bend words (= declination).

But what is barely resembling that what you mention is the two cases of the language, which is nominative and the so called "accusative". Which is adding -n to words to make them an object, depending on whether the verb of the sentence needs one or not. This case also is not just for objects, but also for directions, for measurements and time. That combination normally confuses the heck out of people.

Which is why there is also an in-joke in the Esperanto community "don't forget the accusative", because people forget it or apply it too often.

[–] Etterra 12 points 2 months ago

I don't know how much of those people who speak English only speak pidgin English. Which is to say, a very small vocabulary of no more than 100 words, which is really all you need to communicate to other people in most languages at a very very basic level. If those people were not accounted for, I would then suggest that the amount of people is much higher. The reason for it being that it's the global trade language. It's a spot that used to be occupied by French (thus the term Lingua Franca), and when the world was a lot smaller in the west, Latin. I don't know about the east. Anecdotally, there are people who only share some amount of English as a common language.

It may also depend in the modern age about how much of the written word, either literature or internet now, is written in other languages. Every language has its own pool of written words, and that amount has increased over time with the proliferation of the internet. Until more recent years a lot of stuff online hasn't been translated into other languages. Often times they're limited to the region in which they were made. Other times the pool of languages they've been a translated into is highly limited.

This is often true for video games which may have no more than a half dozen languages that it's translated into, with I believe Chinese, Japanese, and English being the most common. Probably also French and Spanish. It depends on the size of the game and the budget and all that kind of stuff. I also know that the thing that got translated first in a lot of cases is the Bible, and there are examples of bilingual Bibles out there. Because of course that's what got translated first whether we like it or not. I also happen to know that at the time that the Bible was first translated into common languages out of Latin it was a big deal, and that was centuries ago, back when Arabic was a big important language for scholars and the educated, as well as Latin.

Seriously the number of languages the educated used to be able to speak during the Renaissance was absolutely ridiculous for a modern point of view. Even some people from this day and age can be like that; I used to work with an older guy who spoke eight fucking languages. He was from Greece.

So there's my opinion, and if you want a reference any of that stuff feel free to look it up and see if I'm accurate. I haven't read anything about this for years and years, and my memory is average at best.

Also fun fact for anybody who wonders why Americans don't speak other languages; our country takes up a third or more of the fucking continent, everyone here speaks English, and one of our two neighbors is Canada, which also speaks English. I could drive for a thousand miles and not run into somebody who speaks another language. As a consequence people who move here from a foreign country that doesn't speak English and want to be able to interact with the locals is going to have to learn English, at least a little bit. And I've met plenty of people who get by fine enough barely knowing any English, just enough to get by. Are they fluent? Not by a long shot. But again that's what a pidgin language is; just enough to get by.

[–] [email protected] 5 points 2 months ago

People can learn more than one language. If you speak English you can learn Mandarin and increase the people you can communicate with by billions. There is no "one language" because people can know more than one language at a time

[–] victorz 5 points 2 months ago

We haven't been a global world for very long. And language takes very long to spread and become common.

[–] [email protected] 5 points 2 months ago

Waiting on my Universal Translator

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago (2 children)

Is that the default situation is it??

You dreamed up a scenario and now are asking why it is not the case.

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago

It is a somewhat naïvely-framed question, but also you could have just clicked downvote and moved on with your day.

[–] [email protected] -1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

Tell me, where is this global language where it has 3.5 billion speakers, if not half? You've indicated it's not the case...?

Do you think I ask in bad faith, or do you ask in bad faith?

[–] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

geography is a bitch

[–] [email protected] 0 points 2 months ago

To use an analogy, if a culture is the lock, a language is the key, and some keys just don't fit certain locks.