Linguistic IMPERIALISM – what is it and is it really DEAD?


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How many of us listen to that old school British professor who has a BBC British English accent and bow down to this person as the one who knows all when it comes to English! I bet you there are still a lot of people out there that do.

But something very interesting is emerging. It appears that around the world different countries (namely ex-colonies of the UK), who as part of their final effort to completely decolonise themselves have reclaimed – not their language – but the English language they learned and started developing it in their own direction, adding some different grammar and words here and there, and proudly renaming their English as e.g. ‘Singlish’ or ‘Manglish’.

So it really does make you think, what is the future of this imperial English we used to know and love? Sadly as we know, English is a constantly evolving language and will just do what it needs to do, change and move and morph into whatever it needs to be. The language itself has never been static and has always grown with the times, but for us in this day and age, where things are moving so fast, it’s a hard bit to swallow that the very language we proudly spoke and wrote correctly and eloquently, is now getting, squashed, beaten up, stretched and chopped up into little pieces right before our eyes. It is a horrible thing to witness, and as I say hard to deal with.

But what is it that we are really feeling? A language for most represents more than just a communication medium. If you speak English in England, US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, it is your identity as a ‘native English speaker’, but if you speak English in a country not listed above, it is a ‘status’ symbol.

So what is this ‘status’?  It’s called an association to our ‘leaders’….meaning those who imperialised us…being part of the ‘upper crust’, the ‘elite’, the ones who ‘showed us the right and correct way’.

Just listening to those phrases above makes you want to throw up right? Yes that is just as hard to swallow, and no one is buying it anymore.  Saying that, the UK are not ramming it down anyone’s throats either.

So what do we do? We can’t give up the ‘international language of English’, that would be insanity (though some have tried, and are now desperately trying to bring it back), we let it evolve ‘our way’, with ‘our nuances’, ‘our special grammatical systems’. This way we identify with ourselves as a post colonial country.

This is clearly what has to happen. So imperial linguistics? Is it dead? Well I would say, if it’s not, it’s on its last legs!


One thought on “Linguistic IMPERIALISM – what is it and is it really DEAD?

  1. I think that even among the countries you mentioned, English is a status symbol. Look at how non-native English speaking immigrants are treated? Plus, the fact that English is the “native” language of Canada, US, Australia, and New Zealand only shows that imperialism won. Just ask the Inuit, Navajo, Pitjantjatjara, and Maori.

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