The Language of the Future

Candice eetimesYesterday, one of my readers expressed a concern that my novel, All The Stars Are Suns, was riddled with typos.  It turned out he was having trouble with some of my characters use of language.  He didn’t realize that I was trying to convey how in the future, languages would merge into creoles, admixtures of the languages of two or more cultures when they interact.  In my vision of the future, much of the advanced technological polities of the world would use what I dubbed “International Chinese English”, a creole of mostly English words, but with the simplified syntax of Mandarin along with some Mandarin words.  But in space, the cultures having developed primarily from Russian and American space programs, both governmental and corporate, would develop a creole of Russian and English.  This would leave English words as the dominant feature of both creoles as the common intersecting gloss.

All languages evolve, some faster than other during some historical periods, often from cultures interacting with each other, taking on loan words, sometimes blending vocabularies wholesale and simplifying the grammar.  Languages that evolve in isolation tend to accrete more complex grammars as a means of increasing error correction.  When one has to keep gender, case, number, etc. all the same in a sentence, then a slip in one word is caught as an error and is less likely to cause a miscommunication.  However, when two speakers of two or more different languages speak together, they will drop the complexity in favor of simplicity in order to facilitate faster learning of the new creole.

English is in some ways a mish-mash creole becoming a more complex language.  English is a creole of French (a vulgate Latin) and German with more than a bit of Norse (from the Danes / Viking occupation of the east of England).  Added to that are loan words directly from Latin and Greek, as well as others.  Though now that it is becoming (over the past three hundred years) taken up as a second language by more speakers, those speakers often drop the complex grammar in favor of a simple one.

In some ways, Mandarin can be seen as a special pidgin.  A ‘pidgin’ is a language created from the efforts of inter-language contact of traders and travellers who don’t have time to learn each other’s language but need to have a minimum vocabulary and grammar, just enough to get by on.  The vocabulary of Mandarin is greater than a true pidgin but it’s grammar is very pidgin like.  It has no verb conjugation, no gender, no articles, etc.  Yet it serves as the first language of the single largest group of speakers.  This likely developed out of the polyglot history of Imperial Chinese rule.

As Asia gains in economic influence, it needs a common language.  In a strange quirk of history, because modern technology and business in Europe and North America is based on English, that language has become the international business and technology standard.  But China is the single largest market and will soon be the largest developer of technology.  It seems inevitable that English and Mandarin will begin to merge for international business and technology exchange to become “International Chinese English”

In space, I do not see the Chinese working with the Americans and Russians, for the next century at least, since there will be military implications of the technology.  China will want to fully control its own space technology.  Thus, as people move off-planet to live more and more of their lives in space, two cultures will emerge.  Perhaps I’m just being chauvinistic, but I believe that the American/Russian partnership’s culture will eventually dominate space but will have strong economic ties to Asia such that eventually the Space Born, will speak a creole of English/Russian/Mandarin with their own unique spin to it.

So… happy reading !

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