Will_English_Remain_the_Common_Language_ -...

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http://www.honco.net/archive/rt-2.html "Will English Remain the Common Language of the Internet?" If we envision the Internet as a vast text covering the entire earth, it follows that we also would prefer a common language, a lingua franca, for that text. Then again, some argue that a common language will not be necessary. At present, English serves as the de facto universal language of the Internet. Is that acceptable? Or is it pointless to even argue over the hegemony of English, given that no practical alternative exists? The role and the meaning of a common language vary considerably from country to country and from region to region. Our Roundtable participants come from Europe, Asia and the United States. To Americans, English is not only their native tongue, but the lingua franca of choice. To non-British Europeans, English is not their native language, but a close relative. To Asians, however, English is utterly unrelated to their own language, and hence extremely time-consuming and difficult to master. Power politics remains, as always, a factor in the emergence of a universal language. The language of the British Empire became the language of its colonies in the Americas and elsewhere. As the United States grew into a global superpower, English made even further inroads around the world. The media that make up the Internet are overwhelmingly American in origin, so it is no wonder that the mother tongue of the Web is English. Can English ever be freed of its association with the power of the United States and (before that) the British Empire so it can serve as a true common language for the Internet? Economic Clout and Information Volume: Factors in Determining a Common Language Liu Zhiming (China) No other communications medium needs a common language as much as the Internet. What distinguishes the Internet from all previous media is its bidirectionality. The Internet has vastly expanded our capacity to contact and obtain information from people in different countries. This has in turn created more opportunities to disseminate information aimed at 1
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people who speak a variety of languages. With this new diversity -- and non-specificity -- in both recipients and transmitters of information, a common language becomes indispensable. English already has become the de facto common language of the Internet, a position achieved not only because of the extent of its use, but because of the nature of English notation. Relying on an alphabet of only 26 letters, with no auxiliary characters required, English stands as a rarity among the principal languages of the world. Websites and e-mail messages written in English can be accessed by every computer on the planet, many of which are not equipped to display any other language. Even among nations that use the same character set, we find a lack of standardization.
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Will_English_Remain_the_Common_Language_ -...

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