Students are anxious to learn it. Dictionaries try to define it. Media outlets develop extensive style guides for it. Governments try to control it.
What sounds like a new crack epidemic is, in fact, just a language: English.
We live in a world surrounded by many different types of English. You can enjoy the weird and wonderful offerings of Urban Dictionary, smile when an Indian businessman asks you to prepone your meeting, or watch The Wire and realise you need subtitles.
But ‘proper English’ is still a desirable commodity – and big business. So who gets to decide what it is?
There you go, web magic at its best: Visuwords gives you an interactive dictionary, letting you dynamically examine the connections and relationships betweens words – it’s a blast, and a bit mind-bending, to toy around with. Just have a look at the short video above to get an idea. The flash-based service incorporates WordNet, a lexical database of English edited at Princeton University.
Babbel Blog: What does Global Language Monitor do?
Paul JJ Payack: Basically what we do is monitor global English and its impact upon various areas of culture.
What exactly is “global English”? How does that differ from American English or British English?
Five years ago we thought that it was an interesting idea to monitor the growth of the English language. We started with yourdictionary.com, I was the founding president of yourdictionary.com, and it’s the largest multilingual site on the planet, with about 300 different languages, 30 million pageviews a month. What we decided was that it would be interesting to focus on English. What was happening with English was, in 1960 there were 250 million speakers of English. In 2008 there are 1.35 billion speakers of English.(more…)
I’ve always found it curious that the Americans have no centralized institution which establishes the end-all be-all of language. I mean, something along the lines of the German Rechtschreibungen, grammars that all of which incorporated a rather catastrophic spelling reform mandated by an official agreement between German-speaking countries in 1996. Or the Real Academia Española(the Royal Spanish Academy) which purports to maintain propriety, elegance, and purity in the Spanish language, and consistently has conferences all over Spain and Latin America deliberating which words are worthy of inclusion. The North American language, however, is a bit federated, you could say… if not Balkanized.
For the Brits, one of the closest things to language royalty – along with Oxford’s, of course – would be Collins’ Dictionary, which has recently gotten positively ruthless in cutting words it deems obsolete. The Times along with other linguistic luminaries have taken up the case to save “endangered” words from institutional oblivion, by using them in public, and so reviving them.