Why is it important for a linguist to engage with a general audience? If languages go extinct, why is that a loss people should care about?
These are two of the questions that I asked Professor John McWhorter on Skype. We had this conversation right after John interviewed me for his Lexicon Valley podcast, which you can find here.
In case you missed it, there is a full page article in The Economist (June 15, 2019, p. 46) that states the case for English to be made the official language of the European Union. They see this as a benefit of Brexit. I have not seen this discussed anywhere else and was wondering what you think, as an expert on European (and other) languages and their use today.
I enjoy your blog.
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Dear Peggy, many thanks for sending me this, as I hadn’t read it before. Not only do I agree, I actually gave a talk in Brussels on 18 June that said essentially the same thing! English as the EU’s official language is an idea whose time has come, and Brexit, however regrettable in itself, is what makes it possible. I drew comparisons with Indonesia and Tanzania, both of which were in the fortunate position of having an indigenous language that, while being the mother tongue of just a small minority, was nonetheless spoken by many more people throughout the country as a second language: Malay in the former case, Swahili in the latter. It made them ideal lingua francas.
In the post-Brexit EU, English ticks both boxes.