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A Global Language without a Global Culture: From Basic English to Global English

Parallel abstracts


The idea that people should have a common language has long been an ideal. Moreover, the heated discussions that have been taking place with regard to globalization have led to some speculations on the existence of a global culture, which may be accompanied by a global language. By comparing the Basic English movement in the first half of the twentieth century with the rise of global English over the last two decades, this paper argues that a global language alone will not lead to a global culture. The argument is supported by two main rationales: first, English functions as a value-stripped instrument, and second, a multilingual reality has emerged in recent years. Instead of leading to a global culture, English as a global language and tool expresses and constitutes a part of various local cultures which appropriate the use of English according to their own purposes. The majority of people will continue to think in a language other than English, while still being aware of its hegemonic power. While a rootless, neutral language could never become a common language, a language with numerous roots around the world may be able to achieve the status of a global lingua franca. However, these cultural roots force the language to constantly change, instilling new cultural elements. Thus English as a global language implies fluid, dynamic and often fragmented language use, nested in a multilingual landscape, very different from what is usually conceived of as a common world language.

References


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