global English and language extinction

In addition to being an astute political commentator–one who has, ironically, often been caricatured by liberals as a crypto-reactionary, even though his ideas and temperament are quite similar to President Obama’s–John McWhorter is also a heavyweight linguist who used to teach at Berkeley and is now a lit professor at Columbia.*   This fascinating, typically stylish essay questions the notion that the globalization of English is necessarily a cause for worry about “cultural imperialism.”  Along the way McWhorter makes some shrewd observations about how languages change over time and space, why they die out, and the relations (and non-relations) between language and culture in general.  Good read.


*True, he accepts the label “social conservative,” but he’s one in the same way Andrew Sullivan is, i.e. more of a British-style righty, with no time for the crudity that passes for conservatism in the contemporary U.S.  Pro-LGBT rights, an environmentalist fellow-traveler, open to gradual rather than radical social change (like Edmund Burke and, as Sullivan has pointed out, like the President himself).


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