Critique of David Crystal’s 'English: Which Way Now?'

Essay, 2008

3 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Critique of David Crystal's "ENGLISH: WHICH WAY NOW?"

I. David Crystal who currently holds a position as honorary professor and part-time lecturer of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, is a renowned author and editor whose works are mainly in the field of English language studies. He worked under Randolph Quirk as a researcher in the early 1960s and received an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to the English language in 1995. Crystal is the patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL), but is, according to his website1, best known for his two encyclopedias for Cambridge University Press , The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language and The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.

In his article "Emerging Englishes" which was published in the educational magazine Spotlight (April 2000, 54-58) as a reworked version titled "English: Which Way Now?", Crystal lobbies for an International Standard English as a possible solution for the increasing number of English variants throughout the world. He is worried that the English language will fragment into many mutually incomprehensible local forms in the near future therefore necessitating this global variety. One of the reasons for this alarming development is according to the author the growing number of people who speak English as a second language. He asserts that this number will soon exceed the number of native speakers and thus fears that the native speakers, i.e. the British and the Americans, will loose the authority concerning 'their' language.

II. T o begin the evaluation of David Crystal's article, it can be stated that his statements on the future of the English language are quite convincing. In my opinion, looking for trends and new developments instead of taking the status quo for granted should always be made a great priority. Only thus will it be possible to find solutions in order to counteract threatening tendencies.

Nevertheless, I personally believe that Crystal's claim for an international standard is too exaggerated and its implementation would be a disproportionate measure. First of all, I do not think that there is going to be another language in the next decades which will take the place of English as the global lingua franca. Over the last century, English has established itself as the main language in a myriad of areas, including air- and sea-traffic control, international commerce and trade, academic conferences, science, technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, pop music and advertising. Furthermore, it has proven to be very effective and generally accepted in these areas as the preferred means of communication. On account of this, I do not see a change or even a threat to the current status of English as the international language.

Second, I can very well relate to Crystal's anxiety of a continuous fragmentation and diversification of English which, from his point of view, will be the result of the emergence of non-standard forms and the increasing adoption of English as a second language across the world. However, I estimate that the standard varieties, i.e. American and British English, will be just like they have been in the past the reference models for correct grammar and language use. Consequently, these varieties will be responsible for setting and maintaining the standards by which a speaker of any form of the English "family of languages" will be judged and evaluated. The standard varieties of Australian, British, American or South African English will be the common denominator.

As for changes in vocabulary which are acknowledged by Crystal in his article to be "the biggest change to English"2, I hold the view that "borrowed" words or loans enrich the language and are not at all threatening. In the past, words were massively taken over from French and Latin, s o I do not see why it would be such a big problem at present if words were borrowed from African indigenous languages, just to name one example. ???


1 http://www.crystalreference.c om/DavidDCrystal/biography.htm (01/03/2008).

2 Crystal, D. English: Which Way Now. 2000, p. 55.

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Critique of David Crystal’s 'English: Which Way Now?'
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Florian König (Author), 2008, Critique of David Crystal’s 'English: Which Way Now?', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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