As English takes over the world, it’s splintering and changing — and soon, we may not recognize it at all — Salon.
Salon excerpts “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English,” a new book by Heny Hitchens:
We excerpt Salon:
In places where English is used as a second language, its users often perceive it as free from the limitations of their native languages. They associate it with power and social status, and see it as a supple and sensuous medium for self-expression. It symbolizes choice and liberty. But while many of those who do not have a grasp of the language aspire to learn it, there are many others who perceive it as an instrument of oppression, associated not only with imperialism but also with the predations of capitalism and Christianity. (It is mainly thanks to Lenin’s 1917 pamphlet about imperialism and capitalism that the two words have come to be pretty much synonymous.) The Australian scholar Alastair Pennycook neatly sums up English’s paradoxical status as ‘a language of threat, desire, destruction and opportunity’. Its spread can be seen as a homogenizing (some would say, Americanizing) force, eroding the integrity of other cultures. Yet it is striking that the language is appropriated locally in quite distinct ways. Some times it is used against the very powers and ideologies it is alleged to represent. Listening to Somali or Indonesian rappers, for instance, it seems sloppy to say that the use of English in their lyrics is a craven homage to the commercial and cultural might of America.