The sword of Damocles hangs over a multitude of languages. Will it fall? Would this be such a major catastrophe?
In its issue of December 2001, The Economist , a prestigious and widely read international journal, published an article on the triumph of English as a world language. A number of the points made reappear in this paper in a different form, some being weighted differently. While I fully concur with the points made and the arguments presented, in particular with the conclusion, namely that the triumph of English is a dubious one, I take the thinking further and commit myself to a prognosis and a position that The Economist does not venture to take. Before presenting and defending them, I briefly depict the spread of English, describe the negative response to it and discuss whether the fears expressed are fully justified or not. In so doing I pave the way for the two key questions that are often raised: (1) will the world eventually become virtually monolingual, and (2) even if this were the case, would it be such a major disaster if a large proportion of the world's languages did die?
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