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World language

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A world language is one that is spoken internationally and learned and spoken by numerous people as a second language. A world language is characterized not only by the total number of speakers (native and second language speakers) but also by geographical distribution and its use in international organizations and diplomatic relations.[1][2]

The most widely spoken (and likely the fastest spreading) world language today is English, with over 1.1 billion native and second-language users worldwide.[3] On similar grounds, French and Spanish are also commonly categorized as world languages. Other possible world languages include Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Portuguese.

Historically, Egyptian, Ancient Greek, Latin, Classical Chinese, Persian, Sanskrit, and Classical Arabic have also functioned as world languages due to their previous standings as lingua francas over large parts of the world.

Overview

Asian languages

Arabic

Arabic gained international prominence because of the medieval Islamic conquests and the subsequent Arabization of the Middle East and North Africa, and it is also a liturgical language amongst Muslim communities outside the Arab World.

Chinese

Standard Chinese is the direct replacement of Classical Chinese, which was a historical lingua franca in East Asia, also referred to academically as the East Asian cultural sphere in terms of culture, until the early 20th century, and today serves as a common language between speakers of other varieties of Chinese not only within China proper (between the Han Chinese and other unrelated ethnic groups), but in overseas Chinese communities. It is also widely taught as a second language internationally.

Persian

Persian, a South-Western Iranian language, used to be lingua franca of non-Arabic parts of the Islamic world (Greater Iran, Anatolia and the Indian subcontinent in particular) during the medieval and early modern periods.[4] Persian served as the official language of the empires, from the Delhi in India to Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire.[5]

Indian languages

The major languages of the Indian subcontinent have numbers of speakers comparable to those of major world languages primarily due to the large population in the region rather than a supra-regional use of these languages, although Hindustani (including all Hindi dialects, and Urdu), Bengali and Tamil may fulfill the criteria in terms of supra-regional usage and international recognition.[citation needed] Tamil is spoken widely in Southern India. Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka and Singapore. Tamil is recognized as a minority language in the constitution of South Africa [6]. Tamil is used in the currency of Mauritius [7]. Tamil is one of the three recognized languages of education in Malaysia.[8] The Canadian government recognized the month of January as the Tamil heritage of month.[9] As an example, the native speaking population of Bengali vastly outnumber those who speak French as a first language, and it is one of the most spoken languages (ranking fifth[10] or sixth[11]) in the world with nearly 230 million total speakers, and is known for its long and rich literary tradition.

European languages

English

In addition to 370 million native speakers, English is estimated to have over 610 million second-language speakers,[3] including anywhere between 200 and 350 million learners/users in China alone,[12] at varying levels of study and proficiency, though this number is difficult to accurately assess.[13] English is also increasingly becoming the dominant language of scientific research and papers worldwide, having even outpaced national languages in Western European countries, including France, where a recent study showed that English has massively displaced French as the language of scientific research in "hard" as well as in applied sciences.[14] English is the most common of the languages used on the Internet. As of 2019, according to one survey, English is used by 54.0% of the world's top 10 million websites,[15] and according to another survey, 25.5% of all Internet users are English speakers.[16]

French

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, French was the language of communication and diplomacy, and the favoured second language among the elite and the educated classes in Europe (including Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece) — as well as in many Middle East and North African countries such as Syria, Egypt, Ottoman Turkey and Iran. In addition, French enjoyed high status in its colony in Indochina, and in several South American ones like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. However, French has declined steadily since World War I, being gradually displaced by English - although in Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, French continues to be the favoured second language, as well as enjoying co-official status in Canada, Switzerland and Belgium. Moreover, French still remains one of the working languages of many international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO, European Union and NAFTA. French is the principal working language of the European Court of Justice. French is also internationally recognized to be of high linguistic prestige, still used in diplomacy and international commerce, as well as having a significant portion of second language speakers throughout the world.[17]

German

German, although it had many different dialects which formed a language continuum from Holland and Flanders in the northwest, through Schleswig in the north across to East Prussia in the northeast, down to Styria and Lower Austria in the southeast and Bern and South Tyrol in the south, served as a lingua franca in large portions of Europe for centuries, mainly within the Holy Roman Empire and the eastern areas of the Kingdom of Prussia (which later included additional areas of previously Polish territory), and later within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other areas where Germans settled, such as the Baltic States and Transylvania. It remains an important second language in much of Central and Eastern Europe, and in the international scientific community. It is the most widely spoken native language in the European Union as well as one of the three "procedural languages" of its institutions alongside English and French.[18] As of 2019, it is the third most commonly used language for website content, with 5.8% of the world's top 10 million websites using it,[15] and 2.1% of all Internet users are German speakers.[16]

Russian

Russian is the largest native language in Europe, the most geographically widespread language in Eurasia,[19] one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station. As of 2019, it is the second most commonly used language for website content, with 5.9% of the world's top 10 million websites using it,[15] and 2.5% of all Internet users are Russian speakers.[16]

Russian was used in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and its teaching was made compulsory in the Eastern Bloc countries. However, the use and teaching of Russian has declined sharply in both the former Eastern bloc and the near abroad since the break up of the Soviet Union and Russia's deputy education minister was quoted as saying in December 2013 that the number of Russian speakers had fallen by 100 million since that date.[20][21][22] It is still widely spoken throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.

Spanish

Spanish is the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese. Spanish was used in the Spanish Empire and today is in use in Spain, in Latin American countries (except Brazil, French Guiana and Haiti), and is widely spoken in many parts of the United States, particularly in Florida and the states which border Mexico. By 2011, around 13% of the US population fluently speaks Spanish.[23] Indeed, by 2016 Spanish was the most widely taught non-English language in American secondary schools and schools of higher education.[24] It is also an official language of the United Nations. As of 2019, Spanish had the third-largest number of internet users by language with 7.9%, after English with 25.2% and Chinese with 19.3%.[16]

History

Historical languages which had international significance as the lingua franca of a historical empire include Egyptian in Ancient Egypt; Sumerian, Akkadian, and Aramaic in the various Mesopotamian civilizations and empires in the Ancient Near East; Ancient Greek in the Greek colonies in the form of various dialects, evolving to Koine Greek in the Hellenistic world, after the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, and subsequently in the eastern part of the Roman Empire and the territories of the Byzantine Empire; Latin in the Roman Empire and presently as the standard liturgical language for the Catholic faithful worldwide; Classical Chinese in East Asia during the Imperial era of Chinese history; Persian during the various succeeding Persian Empires, and once served as the second lingua franca of the Islamic World after Arabic;[25] Sanskrit during the ancient and medieval historical periods of various states in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia, and like Latin an important liturgical language of the Vedic religions.

The Romance languages bear testimony to the role of Latin as the lingua franca of the Roman Empire; for example, Italian has always been important in the Mediterranean region, and nowadays it is the most-spoken language among members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and it is also used in music (especially Opera) and the fashion industry. Turkish was similarly important as the primary language of the Ottoman Empire. Koine Greek was the world language of the Hellenistic period, but its distribution is not reflected in the distribution of Modern Greek due to the linguistic impact of the Slavic, Arabic and Turkic expansions. The distributions of the Arabic and Turkic languages, in turn, are a legacy of the Caliphates and the First Turkic Khaganate, respectively.

Just as all the living world languages owe their status to linguistic imperialism, the suggestion of a given language as a world language or universal language has strong political implications. Thus, Russian was declared the "world language of internationalism" in Soviet literature, which at the same time denounced French as the "language of fancy courtiers" and English as the "jargon of traders".[26] A number of international auxiliary languages have been introduced as prospective world languages, the most successful of them being Esperanto, but none were learned by as many people as the world languages were. Many natural languages have been proffered as candidates for a global lingua franca[26]

Living world languages

Some sources[27][28] define a living world language as having the following properties:

Certain languages with more than 100 million speakers - in particular, Japanese - are not listed. Japanese, although considered to be one of the more significant languages in the world,[29] does not qualify as a "world language" according to most of the criteria listed above. Japan as a region is nearly homogeneous from ethnic, cultural and linguistic standpoints. Its language has never really served as a lingua franca. Although international interest since the 1980s has prompted many major universities, secondary schools, and even primary schools worldwide to offer courses in the language, Japanese only enjoys a regionally limited sphere of influence.[30]

Languages which are often considered world languages include:[1][31][32]

Data from: Ethnologue[33]
Language Family Branch First language (L1) Second language (L2) Total
No. of
speakers
Official status distribution Global distribution map
English Indo-European Germanic 369.7 million 898.4 million 1.268 billion[34] List of territorial entities where English is an official language Anglospeak (SVG version).svg
French Indo-European Romance 77.3 million 199.3 million 276.6 million[35] List of territorial entities where French is an official language New-Map-Francophone World.svg
Spanish Indo-European Romance 463.0 million 74.9 million 537.9 million[36] List of countries where Spanish is an official language Hispanophone global world map language 2.svg

Other sources denote the following languages as world languages, whilst stricter sources list them only as supra-regional languages:[2]

Data from: Ethnologue[37]
Language Family Branch First language (L1) Second language (L2) Total
No. of
speakers
Official status distribution Global distribution map
Chinese Sino-Tibetan Sinitic 1.324 billion[38] List of territorial entities where Chinese is an official language New-Map-Sinophone World.PNG
Arabic Afro-Asiatic Semitic 335.2 million[39] List of countries where Arabic is an official language Official Arabic language in the World.svg
Portuguese Indo-European Romance 227.9 million 24.2 million 252.2 million[40] List of territorial entities where Portuguese is an official language Map of the portuguese language in the world.svg
Russian Indo-European Slavic 153.6 million 104.3 million 258.0 million[41] List of territorial entities where Russian is an official language Russian language status and proficiency in the World.svg
Standard German Indo-European Germanic 75.5 million 56.1 million 131.6 million[42] List of territorial entities where German is an official language Legal statuses of German in the world.svg

Other supra-regional languages

Other languages of supra-regional importance which fail some of the other criteria to be considered de facto world languages include:

Language Native speakers[43] Total speakers Official status distribution Official status maps
Hindustani (Hindi Belt, Urdu) 329 M (260M Hindi, 69 Urdu) 697 M (534M Hindi,[44] 163 Urdu)[45] Official language in: India (Hindi & Urdu), Pakistan (Urdu) & Fiji (Fiji Hindi)
Recognised as minority language in: Mauritius (Hindi) and Surinam (Sarnami Hindustani)
Widely spoken and understood in the Gulf Emirates
Map-Hindustani World.png
Dutch and Afrikaans 29 M[46][47] 30 M[46][47] List of territorial entities where Afrikaans and Dutch are official languages Afrikaans-Dutch language world.svg
Bengali 243 M 262 M[48] Official language in: India (in West Bengal, Tripura and Assam) and Bangladesh Bengali-world.png
Malay and Indonesian 39 M 218 M[49][50] List of territorial entities where Malay is an official language Malay language Spoken Area Map v1.png
Swahili 16 M 98 M[51]
[52][failed verification]
[53][failed verification]
Official language in:Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, African Union and East African Community Maeneo penye wasemaji wa Kiswahili.png
Persian 58[54] to 60 M[55] 61 M[54][56] to 110 M[55] Official language in: Iran, Afghanistan (as Dari) and Tajikistan (as Tajik) Persian Language Location Map.svg
Turkish 74 M 79 M[57] to 100 M[58][page needed]
[59][failed verification]
Official language in: Turkey, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus
Recognized minority language in: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Romania, Iraq, Greece, Republic of Kosovo
Map of Turkish Language.png
Italian 65 M 68 M[60] to 85 M[61] Official language in: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Vatican City. Italian is relevant in countries affected by the Italian diaspora and in former colonies and occupied territories of the Italian Empire. Map Italophone World - updated.png
Tamil 68 M 75 M[62] List of territorial entities where Tamil is an official language TamilPopulation-World.png

See also

Notes

In contrast to other pluricentric languages (e.g., Arabic or Malay), Ethnologue only lists "Standard German", thereby excluding Swiss German and numerous other varieties of German. Summing up Standard German as well as all undisputed German dialects/varieties (see ISO-list in infobox at German language) that are not listed under "Standard German" results in ca. 90 M native speakers. Furthermore, Ammon (2014)[63] points out that Ethnologue overestimates L2 speakers, thus underestimating L1 speakers, in Germany by 5M --> 95M L1 speakers.

References

  1. ^ a b Fischer Weltalmanach. S. Fischer Verlag. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Baker, Colin; Jones, Sylvia Prys (1998). Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853593628 https://books.google.com/books?id=YgtSqB9oqDIC. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b "English". Ethnologue.
  4. ^ Boyle, John Andrew (1974). "Some Thoughts on the Sources for the Il-Khanid Period of Persian History". Iran. 12: 185–188. doi:10.2307/4300510. ISSN 0578-6967. JSTOR 4300510.
  5. ^ Wastl-Walter, Doris (2011). The Ashgate Research Companion to Border Studies. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9780754674061.
  6. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 - Chapter 1: Founding Provisions | South African Government". www.gov.za.
  7. ^ "A Brief History of the Tamils of Mauritius (M. Sangeelee)". tamilelibrary.org.
  8. ^ "National Identity and Minority Languages | UN Chronicle". unchronicle.un.org.
  9. ^ Heritage, Canadian (January 3, 2019). "Statement by Minister Rodriguez on Tamil Heritage Month". gcnws.
  10. ^ "Summary by country". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  11. ^ Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People. Microsoft Encarta 2006. Archived from the original on January 9, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  12. ^ Wei, Rining; Jinzhi Su (2012). "The statistics of English in China". English Today. 28 (3): 10–14. doi:10.1017/s0266078412000235.
  13. ^ Crystal, David (2006). "9 - English worldwide". In Hogg, Richard; Denison, David (eds.). A History of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 420–439.
  14. ^ Héran, François (June 2013). "No English please! Survey on the languages used for research and teaching in France" (PDF). Population & Sociétés (501).
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  20. ^ Blank, Stephen (9 January 2015). "Russia's Waning Soft Power in Central Asia". The Diplomat.
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  28. ^ Wallraff, Barbara. "What Global Language?".
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  30. ^ cf. Pei p. 15
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  33. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  34. ^ English at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  35. ^ French at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  36. ^ Spanish at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  37. ^ "Summary by language size". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  38. ^ Chinese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  39. ^ Arabic at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  40. ^ Portuguese at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  41. ^ Russian at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  42. ^ German, Standard at Ethnologue (22nd ed., 2019)
  43. ^ "Summary by language size".
  44. ^ "Hindi".
  45. ^ "Urdu".
  46. ^ a b "Dutch". Ethnologue.
  47. ^ a b "Afrikaans". Ethnologue.
  48. ^ "Bengali".
  49. ^ "Malay".
  50. ^ "Indonesian".
  51. ^ "Swahili". Ethnologue.
  52. ^ Irele, F. Abiola; Jeyifo, Biodun, eds. (2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought. 1. Oxford University Press. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-19-533473-9.[failed verification]
  53. ^ "Swahili". Stanford Language Center."Swahili". Stanford Language Center.[failed verification]
  54. ^ a b "Persian, Iranian". Ethnologue.
  55. ^ a b Windfuhr, Gernot, ed. (2009). The Iranian Languages. London: Routledge. p. 418.
  56. ^ "Dari". Ethnologue.
  57. ^ "Turkish". Ethnologue.
  58. ^ Katzner[page needed]
  59. ^ Europeans and their Languages (PDF), Special Eurobarometer 243, European Commission, February 2006[failed verification]
  60. ^ "Italian". Ethnologue.
  61. ^ "Italian". University of Leicester. Retrieved 2018-09-21.
  62. ^ "Tamil". Ethnologue.
  63. ^ Ammon, Ulrich - Die Stellung der deutschen Sprache in der Welt (de Gruyter Mouton; ISBN 978-3-11-019298-8)

Bibliography

External links