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10.a Crystal Eng as a global lang

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cautious temperament will use averages of the most
14 British Council (1997).
68
Why English? The historical context
recent estimates,15 and these produce a grand total of c. 1,500
million speakers from all sources – approximately 750 million
first- and second-language speakers, and an equivalent number
of speakers of English as a foreign language. This figure permits
a convenient summary, given that world population passed the 6
billion mark during late 1999. It suggests that approximately one
in four of the world’s population are now capable of communi-
cating to a useful level in English.
Two comments must immediately be made about this or any
similar conclusion. First, if one quarter of the world’s population
are able to use English, then three-quarters are not. Nor do we
have to travel far into the hinterland of a country – away from the
tourist spots, airports, hotels and restaurants – to encounter this
reality. Populist claims about the universal spread of English thus
need to be kept firmly in perspective. Second, there is evidently a
major shift taking place in the centre of gravity of the language.
From a time (in the 1960s) when the majority of speakers were
thought to be first-language speakers, we now have a situation
where there are more people speaking it as a second language,
and many more speaking it as a foreign language. If we combine
these two latter groups, the ratio of native to non-native is around
1:3. Moreover, the population growth in areas where English is
a second language is about 2.5 times that in areas where it is
a first language (see Table 2), so that this differential is steadily
increasing. David Graddol suggests that the proportion of the
world’s population who have English as a first language will de-
cline from over 8 per cent in 1950 to less than 5 per cent in
15 It is interesting to compare estimates for first (L1), second (L2) and for-
eign (F) language use over the past 40 years.
– in Quirk (1962: 6) the totals for first (L1), second (L2) and foreign
(F) were 250 (L1) and 100 (L2/F);
– during the 1970s these totals rose to 300 (L1), 300 (L2) and 100 (F)
(cf. McArthur (1992: 355));
– Kachru (1985: 212) has 300 (L1), 300–400 (L2) and 600–700 (F);
– Ethnologue (1988) and Bright (1992: II.74), using a Time estimate in
1986, have 403 (L1), 397 (L2) and 800 (F);
– during the 1990s the L1 and L2 estimates rise again, though with some
variation. The Columbia Encyclopedia (1993) has 450 (L1), 400 and
850 (F). Ethnologue (1992), using aWorld Almanac estimate in 1991,
has 450 (L1) and 350 (L2).
69
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Why English? The historical context
Table 2 Annual growth rate in population in selected countries,
1996–2001∗
Population % annual growth
(2001) (1996–2001)
Australia 18,972,000 1.1
Canada 31,600,000 0.9
New Zealand 3,864,000 0.8
UK 59,648,000 0.4
USA 278,059,000 1.2
Average 0.88
Cameroon 15,900,000 2.6
India 1,029,991,000 1.7
Malaysia 22,229,000 2.5
Nigeria 126,636,000 2.8
Philippines 82,842,000 2.4
Average 2.4
∗Population growth data from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2002).
2050.16 The situation is without precedent for an international
language. Much will depend on what happens in the countries
with the largest populations, notably China, Japan, Russia, In-
donesia and Brazil.
No other language has spread around the globe so extensively,
but – as we have seen in chapter 1 – what is impressive is not
so much the grand total but the speed with which expansion has
taken place since the 1950s. In 1950, the case for English as a
world language would have been no more than plausible. Fifty
years on, and the case is virtually unassailable. What happened in
this fifty years – a mere eye-blink in the history of a language – to
cause such a massive change of stature? To answer this question,
we must look at the way modern society has come to use, and
depend on, the English language.
16 Graddol (1999: 61).
71
3
Why English? The cultural foundation
‘I have undertaken towrite a grammar of English’, says JohnWallis
in the preface to his Grammar of the English language, ‘because
there is clearly a great demand for it from foreigners, who want
to be able to understand the various important works which are
written in our tongue.’ And he goes on: ‘all kinds of literature are
widely available in English editions, and, without boasting, it can
be said that there is scarcely any worthwhile body of knowledge
which has not been recorded today, adequately at least, in the
English language’.1
This is a familiar-sounding argument to twenty-first-century
ears; but these bold words are not from a modern author. John
Wallis was writing in England in 1765. Moreover, the words are
a translation. Wallis wrote his book in Latin, which was still being
widely used as a scholarly lingua franca during the eighteenth
century. But he could clearly see how the situation was changing –
and had already greatly changed since the time of Shakespeare.
A few generations earlier, Richard Mulcaster, the headmaster
of Merchant Taylors’ School, had been one of the strongest sup-
porters of the English language, avowing in 1582: ‘I love Rome,
but London better. I favour Italy, but England more. I honour
the Latin, but I worship the English.’2 However, Mulcaster was
1 Author’s preface, John Wallis, Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae, xxiii
(Kemp (1972: 105)).
2 Mulcaster (1582).
72
Why English? The cultural foundation
living in a very different intellectual climate. He felt he had to de-
fend the language against those who believed that English should
not usurp the long-established place of Latin. There were many
around him who thought that a ‘mere vernacular’ could not be
used to express great and complex thoughts. So he expressed him-
self strongly: ‘I do not think that any language is better able to
utter all arguments, either with more pith or greater plainness,
as our English tongue is’. A decade later, and Shakespeare would
begin to give him some evidence.
Despite his strong convictions, Mulcaster could still see that
there was a problem: English was no real match for Latin at an
international level. ‘Our English tongue’, he says at one point, ‘is
of small reach – it stretcheth no further than this island of ours –
nay, not there over all.’ He was right, for the Celtic languages
were still strongly present in Britain at the time, and few people
engaged in foreign travel. ‘Our state’, Mulcaster remarks, ‘is no
Empire to hope to enlarge it by commanding over countries.’ But
within two years, Walter Raleigh’s first expedition to America had
set sail, and the situation was about to alter fundamentally.
Not all were as pessimistic asMulcaster, though. SamuelDaniel,
in his poem Musophilis, wrote in 1599:
And who in time knows whither we may vent
The treasure of our tongue, towhat strange shores
This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
To enrich unknowing nations without stores?
Which worlds in the yet unformed Occident
May come refined with the accents that are ours.
Daniel’s speculations did become a reality – but not for well over
a century. When, fifty years later, the poet and traveller Richard
Flecknoe reflected on his ten-year journey through Europe, Asia,
Africa and America he found that Spanish and Dutch were the
really useful languages to know, with English being only occasion-
ally helpful – as he put it, ‘to stop holes with’. But by the 1750s it
was possible for the Earl of Chesterfield