Global language system

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The global language system is the "ingenious pattern of connections between language groups".[1] According to Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan, a sociological classification of languages based on large scale social role for their speakers:[1]

  • Hypercentral language: the language which connects speakers of the supercentral languages (below). Today it is English.
  • Supercentral languages: very widely spoken languages that serve as connectors between speakers of central languages; according to de Swaan, there are twelve of these: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.
  • Central languages: widely spoken languages.
  • Peripheral languages: the rest – languages that not many people consider worth learning except to improve one's own communication faculties.

According to the research by the British Council the languages of the world comprise a "hierarchical pyramid", as follows:[2]

  • The big languages: English, French.
  • Regional languages (languages of the United Nations are marked with asterisk): Arabic*, Chinese*, English*, French*, German, Russian*, Spanish*.
  • National languages: around 80 languages serve over 180 nation states.
  • Official languages within nation states (and other "safe" languages): around 600 languages worldwide (e.g. Marathi).
  • Local vernacular languages: the remainder of the world's 6,000+ languages.

There are predictions that by the middle of the 21st century this will become more diverse in the top, but less in the bottom:[3]

  • The big languages: Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, English, Spanish, Arabic.
  • Regional languages (the languages of major trade blocs): Arabic, English, Chinese, Malay, Russian, Spanish.
  • National languages: around 90 languages serve over 220 nation states.
  • Local languages: the remainder of the world's 1000 or less languages with varying degrees of official recognition.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Swaan, Abram de (2001). Words of the world : the global language system. (1. publ. ed.). Malden, Mass.: Polity Press. pp. 1–6. ISBN 9780745627472. 
  2. ^ Graddol, David (1997, 2000). "The Future of English? A guide to forecasting the popularity of the English language in the 21st century". The British Council. p. 13. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Graddol, David (1997, 2000). "The Future of English? A guide to forecasting the popularity of the English language in the 21st century". The British Council. p. 59. Retrieved 22 September 2013.