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‘Imperialism’ or just creeping cosmopolitanism?

Michael Totten’s latest bloggage from Iraq is as informative as ever, but the thing that fascinated me most was a brief but interesting discursion into the use of the English word ‘Supermarket’ on a sign in a small town in Iraq.

What struck me about the sign on that store, and on many other stores in Iraq, was the English word “supermarket.” The only people in Saqlawiya who find English helpful are the Marines. And me.

I’ve seen this far beyond Iraq. Even in small towns in Libya – one of the most closed societies in the world – I found store signs in English. The amount of English in a genuinely cosmopolitan city like Beirut is even more striking, though no longer surprising. Beirut, at least, has a huge tourist industry. Imagine how differently you would think about Arabic civilization if small towns in Kansas and Nebraska – not to mention large cities like New York and Chicago – had storefront signs in the Arabic language even though no Arabs live there. Perhaps the word “imperialism” wouldn’t seem so much like a stretch. Of course no one forces Iraqis or Libyans to put English words on their signs, so it’s telling that they do so anyway, and that they did not choose Chinese or Russian.

I disagree with Michael’s use of the word ‘imperialism’ and I think he answers that point himself in the very next sentence. An even more demotic variation on the inexplicable prevalence of English puzzled me many years ago BB (Before Blogging). I spent some time in a few fairly rough parts of Croatia and one can hardly miss the prevalence of racist and sexist graffiti on the communist-era concrete tower blocks. The odd thing is that mixed in with the usually ‘Jebi Se’ varient epithets in Croatian, you will find floridly racist threats or extravagant anatomical references in more or less grammatically correct English. And this in an area that was not exactly a magnet for English speaking tourists, particularly in the middle of the then on-going war.

The huge number of people who speak English in Croatia can be easily explained by the ubiquity of satellite dishes, which is why I often referred to the local Croatian English dialect as MTV English. But that does not answer the question of why in a linguistically and ethnically homogeneous area (such as unlovely New Zagreb in Croatia or Saqlawiya in Iraq), people use written English when there is no commercial or political pressures to do so.

Interesting.

40 comments to ‘Imperialism’ or just creeping cosmopolitanism?

  • not the Alex above

    I think its because english(american) is seen as cool, in the same way that we see french as being an idicator of sophistication.

  • Certainly, but that begs the question of… why?

  • I think there are a number of factors together that are leading to this.

    You see less of this in countries where the local language is written with a Latin script, is spoken by a large number of people, and has at least some international character (which usually means it is the language of a former colonial power and also usually means that language has its own local mass media and satellite channels). If you go to Spain then you see a “supermercado” and not a supermarket, and you see very little English in day to day places that would be used and seen by locals. When you see written English it is either specifically aimed at providing directions for foreigners or due to the presence of a foreign brand or company. (France actively resists this, of course. It is the only country I have ever been to where the Starbucks menu board is not in English). This often follows to the former colonies of European powers. In former Portuguese or French colonies in Africa, you will often see plenty of written Portuguese or French but little English. In a lot of such cases there is also I think a feeling that English speakers can probably figure out signs in the local language, so there is not great need to use English. For one thing, as long as the script is the same, signs indicating place names will be fine even if the language is different. And in a lot of cases this is fair enough. I do not speak any of the Romance languages, but I know enough vocabulary to have no difficulty reading most signs.

    In smaller countries where the script is Latin, you seem to see more English words used for day to day concepts. This might be due to the MTV effect of greater exposure to English language media, or due to there being fewer native speakers of a language to invent local terms. I think there is also a tendency to associate English with modernity though. I would strongly object to the word “imperialism” to describe this though. That word implies force, and there isn’t any force.

    In cases where the local script is not Latin, then these days you usually do see a fair bit of English, even in fairly remote and obscure places. Part of this is that people who do not speak the local language will not otherwise be able to understand anything (even place names) otherwise, and English is by far the best bet that they may be understood, probably even if the visitor is a Korean visiting Russia. (Again there is a “colonial power exception” in some cases. The presence of Portuguese language signs in peninsular Macau often eliminates the need for English). The association between English and modernity and cosmopolitanism can be strong in some places though, which leads to English signs for show in places where nobody is expected to understand them, including the person who wrote them. In Asia this can sometimes lead to the examples of hilariously mangled English that can be seen in Japan or China or Korea.

  • lucklucky

    Music Industry and Hollywood plus a spray of American Economic and Technological advances. Supermarkets appaered first in USA(i believe) and i bet most countries didnt had a word for it.

  • Tanuki

    The ubiquity of English is indeed interesting; one thing which really confuses me is why Japanese cars all have their badging/branding in English, even for those models or variants which are JDM [Japanese Domestic Market] only.

    They always spell out the name TOYOTA or ISUZU or whatever in the Roman alphabet, not in Kanji

  • ClockworkOrange

    I seriously doubt it’s because English is “seen as cool”

    The country has to contend with massive occupation force (not just army, but civilians/contractors/etc), which speaks English and more importantly has more money that your average Iraqi. Hence the signs
    in English – I suspect it’s a pure marketing ploy to attract few extra dollars.

    >> France actively resists this, of course. It is the only country I have ever been to where the Starbucks menu board is not in English

    Well that’s funny. Why would a country where majority of population does not speak English (or doesn’t want to – either way) has to contend with menus written in foreign language??

    >> Music Industry and Hollywood plus a spray of American Economic and Technological advances.

    Oh yeah I am sure residents of Fallujah had plenty of time to watch Hollywood movies and discuss technological advances between the bombings that reduced most of the city to rubble and turned it into a ghost town.

  • RRS

    Ali sees sign in non-arabic form.
    Ali goes into store; asks owner: “What is sign?”
    Owner: “Says in American – ‘Best kind of store’ – need something? We have all!”

    That’s one possible “why”

  • You see less of this in countries where the local language is written with a Latin script, is spoken by a large number of people, and has at least some international character

    None of which apply to Croatia.

    The country has to contend with massive occupation force (not just army, but civilians/contractors/etc), which speaks English and more importantly has more money that your average Iraqi. Hence the signs
    in English – I suspect it’s a pure marketing ploy to attract few extra dollars.

    This also which does not apply in Croatia as graffiti is not marketing (at least not in the usual sense) and in any case no tourist ever goes to New Zagreb (Zagreb = lovely; New Zagreb = unlovely), so signs reporting the heroic size of Croatian male anatomy are not likely to get read by any US or UK nationals. And Michael Totten points out he has seen shop signs using English in Libya too. Who are they marketing to?

  • Well that’s funny. Why would a country where majority of population does not speak English (or doesn’t want to – either way) has to contend with menus written in foreign language??

    That is not exactly what I meant. I said the Starbucks menu board in France is not in English, meaning that it is in French only. In many other countries it is bilingual in both the local language and English. It is not that the French require the menu to be in French, it is that they object to the presence of the English.

    There are several answers to your question though. If they are seeking an exotic experience, or the foreignness of the product that they are buying is part of the experience, or if some locals may want to demonstrate their sophistication compared to other locals, then they may actually want to order in English. (It is not unheard of for posh French restaurants in English or other non-French speaking countries to have menus only in French, although this is less common than it once was). Starbucks’ menu board consists of a mixture of English and pseudo-Italian that they made up (Triple shot skinny venti latte, thanks), and the way they phrase it is to some extent part of the trademark and the business model and the image they are trying to project. To some extent that transcends the fact that customers speak different languages.

  • Millie Woods

    OK here’s where I revert to the droning on recovering linguistics prof mode. The reason for the dominance of English in the world today is that it is the prime language of access to knowledge not available in one’s native language. My Russian father immigrated to Quebec because he had been taught French in Russia. Before wwII French was still a language of access. It isn’t today.
    The ‘cool’ meme will never be a factor in language learning. Investing time and mental energy just to be ‘cool’ simply isn’t on.
    However, there is another element English possesses which makes learning its spoken aspect less onerous than some other languages. It’s the fact that the words that carry meaning are stressed phonetically and never elided which happens all the time to English words whose function is not meaningful but grammatical and syntactic. Think of auxiliary verb contractions, the negative word, not, the conjunction, and.
    So the me Tarzan/you Jane aspect of English favours it as a route to mastering real communication quickly.

  • Ivan

    Michael Jennings:

    (France actively resists this, of course. It is the only country I have ever been to where the Starbucks menu board is not in English).

    I’d say that even in English-speaking countries, the inscriptions on Starbucks menu boards hardly qualify as “English”. :-)

  • Ivan

    Millie Woods:

    The ‘cool’ meme will never be a factor in language learning. Investing time and mental energy just to be ‘cool’ simply isn’t on.

    As someone coming from a non-English-speaking country with a quite widespread knowledge of English as a secondary language, I can say that this is manifestly untrue. The “cool” factor is in fact extremely important, often even the key factor. As in any other areas of life, there is nothing capable of motivating kids and teenagers more than the fear of being considered “uncool” by their peers — and a certain level of English has been necessary to appreciate the “cool” pop culture for quite a while.

    However, there is another element English possesses which makes learning its spoken aspect less onerous than some other languages. It’s the fact that the words that carry meaning are stressed phonetically and never elided which happens all the time to English words whose function is not meaningful but grammatical and syntactic. Think of auxiliary verb contractions, the negative word, not, the conjunction, and.
    So the me Tarzan/you Jane aspect of English favours it as a route to mastering real communication quickly.

    You’re obviously a native English speaker. :-) Believe me, much more stuff gets elided in spoken English, unless one speaks with the clarity of a lecturer or TV speaker — it’s just that your native speaker brain automatically fills in whatever is missing without any conscious thought. Understanding everyday spoken English can be very, very hard even if you’re already proficient enough to read it seamlessly and understand it when spoken slowly and clearly.

    Despite the frequent claims to the contrary, there is nothing whatsoever that makes English any easier to learn than any other human language. There are many reasons for the global dominance of English, but its supposed easiness is not among them.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    English is used because it is most likely to be a common language between multiple foreign nationals.

    Selling stuff to cash rich foreigners, even in a war zone, is lucrative.

    Learning to curse in a foreign language is de rigeur, hence the grafiti.

    Why English, simply because more content is published in Englsih than any other language. This is why latin was the written language of the middle ages. It was probably only racism and sectarianism that prevented middle ages European scholars from simply adjusting to Arabic, the language of much academic work during the time. Mathematicians certainly adopted Arabic numerals, who adopted them from India.

  • Ivan

    Michael Jennings:

    In smaller countries where the script is Latin, you seem to see more English words used for day to day concepts. This might be due to the MTV effect of greater exposure to English language media, or due to there being fewer native speakers of a language to invent local terms. I think there is also a tendency to associate English with modernity though.

    All these factors you list definitely exist in Croatia. In particular, the association of English with “cool” and modernity often takes ridiculous forms. All around Croatia, one can see hilarious store names in which “shop” is used instead of equivalent native words in an attempt to sound cool, often mixed up with other words of foreign origin for which the store owners mistakenly believe that they must also be English. :-) Among people who are trying to imitate various Western trends and fads, nothing gives an aura of chic as an occasional supposedly untranslatable English word, even if the concept was in fact entirely familiar to their peasant grandparents. :-)

  • Ivan

    Perry de Havilland:

    I spent in some time in a few fairly rough parts of Croatia and one can hardly miss the prevalence of racist and sexist graffiti on the communist-era concrete tower blocks. The odd thing is that mixed in with the usually ‘Jebi Se’ varient epithets in Croatian, you will find floridly racist or extravagant anatomical references in more or less grammatically correct English. And this in an area that was not exactly a magnet for English speaking tourists, particularly in the middle of the then on-going war.

    The huge number of people who speak English in Croatia can be easily explained by the ubiquity of satellite dishes, which is why I often referred to the local Croatian English dialect as MTV English. But that does not answer the question of why in a linguistically and ethnically homogeneous area (such as unlovely New Zagreb in Croatia or Saqlawiya in Iraq), people use written English when there is no commercial or political pressures to do so.

    Actually, you’re wrong to attribute the MTV effect to satellite dishes. In former Yugoslavia, starting at least from sometime in the 1970s, there were no barriers imposed to the Western cultural influences. When I lived there as a kid in the eighties, we didn’t have a satellite dish, but I still got a rich dose of American and British pop culture straight off the government TV and radio, and Hollywood moves were coming to the local theaters with only a few months’ delay, at least in the major cities. Even my father’s hard rock records from the seventies (Deep Purple and the like) were actually manufactured under license in Yugoslav plants for the domestic market. Therefore, by the time the war started in 1991, there had already been almost two decades of the MTV effect in operation. Also, unlike in the Soviet bloc countries, kids were taught mainly German and English in school rather than Russian, especially in the Western republics (Croatia and Slovenia). Add to it the reasonably open nature of Yugoslav society — easy foreign travel for almost everyone, a large diaspora freely moving in and out of the country, and lots of foreign tourists at the seaside — and it’s not that surprising that foreign languages were widely spoken, including English.

    In former Yugoslavia, English has been the language of “cool” for decades in nearly all social circles. Even not counting the influence of the hugely popular British and American movies and pop music, almost every social scene has its ultimate idols somewhere in the English-speaking world, from the football hooligans to science fiction geeks to the emerging yuppie hipster class. Of course, there are exceptions, such as hardcore fans of domestic folk music (which is however still hugely influenced by Western pop music) or nationalist extremists who obviously don’t view this English influence favorably. But nevertheless, the influence of English has definitely been overwhelming for more than a generation. As for the graffiti you describe, they are usually made by kids trying to convey a “cool” message, and English is the obvious language of choice for that, even when they’re made for the local audience.

  • Thanks for linking, Perry.

    I don’t think it’s imperialism, by the way, hence the quote marks around the word. But I can understand how it feels like imperialism to people on the other end of it.

  • jonathan

    Perhaps so many Croatians have emigrated to English speaking countries that a knowledge of this language is essential.
    The first generation of emigrants speak and write their first language, the second generation understand it but often speak it poorly and the third generation often neither speak nor understand it. Hence the second language of the emigrant becomes the lingua franca of the generations.

  • jonathan

    Perhaps so many Croatians have emigrated to English speaking countries that a knowledge of this language is essential.
    The first generation of emigrants speak and write their first language, the second generation understand it but often speak it poorly and the third generation often neither speak nor understand it. Hence the second language of the emigrant becomes the lingua franca of the generations.

  • Sam Duncan

    signs reporting the heroic size of Croatian male anatomy

    Ah, so that’s what they said. Well then, the explanation is simple: internet pr0n. I’m (fairly) serious. It’s related to the “cool” thing. If you want to boast about the size of your chap, you do it in English because that’s what the people who do that sort of thing for a living do. And those guys are, to your average spotty herbert who can’t get laid and writes on walls instead, cool.

    Think of all those East European heavy metal bands barking “DESTROY!” in the gruffest voices they can muster. Same thing.

  • Millie Woods

    Ivan, I disagree. For starters try eliding disagree in the previous sentence and let me know how you get on.
    I did not write that English was easy. With the verb system English has where it is possible to have a verb element with five distinct parts that would be an exaggeration. However that five part verb will have its crucial and meaningful last element which carries the message which will never be elided nor contracted. I believe you might be conflating elision with accentuation.
    As for ‘cool’ – ‘cool’ matters to the young who promote all kinds of neologisms and alternate meanings in their first languages. Coming from a bilingual background I well know how words and expressions are swapped back and forth but that has as much relevance to the subject as larding one’s vocabulary with the latest slang – it’s a non-lasting phenomenon.
    When I was a graduate student in linguistics I had to have a reading knowledge of German because there was an important source of linguistic research – the Praque school whose publications were in German. Today’s graduate student would not have to do so because serious publications in the field tend to be presented in English.

  • Ivan

    Millie Woods:

    Ivan, I disagree. For starters try eliding disagree in the previous sentence and let me know how you get on.

    Sure, but the same holds for this sentence in any other language if you entirely elide whatever morphemes stand for “disagree” in it. I really don’t see anything specific about English here.

    I did not write that English was easy. With the verb system English has where it is possible to have a verb element with five distinct parts that would be an exaggeration. However that five part verb will have its crucial and meaningful last element which carries the message which will never be elided nor contracted. I believe you might be conflating elision with accentuation.

    What I had in mind is reduction, or even outright elision of phonemes, especially non-accented vowels, in normal, everyday speech of native speakers. This happens in any language unless the speaker is making a conscious effort to sound especially clear for some reason. Of course, this can go only to a certain limit before the speech becomes incomprehensible for anyone, but the ear of a native speaker (or a highly proficient learner) will unconsciously fill in lots of gaps thanks to the information redundancy. Being naturally lazy, people always tend to speak with the lowest level of clarity that will get the point across, and for this reason, normal everyday speech between native speakers tends to be highly slurred.

    As for ‘cool’ – ‘cool’ matters to the young who promote all kinds of neologisms and alternate meanings in their first languages. Coming from a bilingual background I well know how words and expressions are swapped back and forth but that has as much relevance to the subject as larding one’s vocabulary with the latest slang – it’s a non-lasting phenomenon.

    When I was a graduate student in linguistics I had to have a reading knowledge of German because there was an important source of linguistic research – the Praque school whose publications were in German. Today’s graduate student would not have to do so because serious publications in the field tend to be presented in English.

    That’s certainly true, but I didn’t say that the cool factor is the only factor pushing the global popularity of English. What you write above explains why engineers, academics, etc. tend to be proficient in English nowadays, but not the English graffiti left by the crowd from near the bottom of the social and educational ladder.

  • Ivan

    Sam Duncan:

    Ah, so that’s what they said. Well then, the explanation is simple: internet pr0n. I’m (fairly) serious. It’s related to the “cool” thing. If you want to boast about the size of your chap, you do it in English because that’s what the people who do that sort of thing for a living do. And those guys are, to your average spotty herbert who can’t get laid and writes on walls instead, cool.

    Nope. The author of the initial post was describing the situation in the early-to-mid 1990s, when nobody but a handful of geeks even knew what the internet was even in the U.S., let alone in Eastern Europe. And he could have seen the same stuff in the eighties.

    Think of all those East European heavy metal bands barking “DESTROY!” in the gruffest voices they can muster. Same thing.

    This is a much better example of a mechanism through which English influences other European languages. A large percentage, possibly even a majority of European youth from both sides of the Iron Curtain pass through at least one period of fascination with some particular musical scene in which they want to know what the band names and song titles and lyrics mean and be able to discuss them with their peers from the same group. This is of course just one special case of the “cool” mechanism for spreading English.

  • Ivan

    jonathan:

    Perhaps so many Croatians have emigrated to English speaking countries that a knowledge of this language is essential.

    No, by far the largest emigration was to Germany (mostly in the form of quasi-temporary “guest workers”), which has indeed resulted in very widespread knowledge of pidgin German throughout former Yugoslavia. :-) (In the eighties, even comedy sketches for the general audience often presupposed some knowledge of this gastarbeiter pidgin German!) There are indeed many Croatians in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, but few of those have ever returned back permanently or maintained any connections with Croatia significant enough to increase the value of speaking English there. It’s definitely not a significant mechanism in the overall spread of English in ex-Yugoslavia.

  • Possibly relevant: I asked a Norwegian why the TV commercials were all in Norwegian but the product slogans at the end were in English. The answer: “It would sound so *stupid* in Norwegian.” I still don’t know why they don’t invent slogans that don’t sound stupid in Norwegian. I think English is seen as cool in a lot of places.

  • James of england

    It’s not on topic, for which I apologise, but it really feels like Samizdata should be one of the places one can go to to find gloating over Spitzer’s resignation. A giant in the field of dictatorial abuse of state power has been taken down.

  • michael farris

    “”It would sound so *stupid* in Norwegian.” I still don’t know why they don’t invent slogans that don’t sound stupid in Norwegian.”

    You may be missing the point. I wouldn’t be suprised if it sounds stupid (to Norwegians) in English as well. It’s probably just more socially acceptable to say that kind of stupid thing in English than in Norwegian.

  • RAB

    Well it also has to do with branding and marketing.
    Did anyone bother to translate Coca Cola into foreign?

    Well yes when the Japanese division of Pepsi (yes I know, not the same company)
    Managed to creatively translate the current slogan of the time-

    Come alive with Pepsi !

    As, Resurrect your Ancestors!
    with a can of this stuff.

    Sales fell off a bit!
    But the global reach continues.

  • Jerome Thomas

    In most countries around the world local elites rely on english as the means of communication with the outside world. Furthermore the majority of imported pop culture is in english. English thus becomes synonymous, with education, wealth, modernity and cosmopolitanism. For any kind of macro understanding of world trends english is seen (rightly or wrongly) as essential. Therefore it is cool.

  • Michael Farris

    One weird phenomenon I’ve noticed. Non-native speakers of English often regard conspicuous use of English words and phrases among other language communities as silly, ridiculous and shabby.
    But, they regard the same kind of use in their own language as sophisticated.

    They also don’t appreciate when this double standard is pointed out.

  • Nick M

    RAB,
    I think that was China because I put it on the missus’ web-site as an example of why you need a professional translator and not some bloke with a phrase book who’s great aunt had a holiday there in 1975. God I know. In my job I read a lot of manuals out of China. “Please now to be having intercourse with the slot of PCI” and all that.

    Your example did literately translate as something like “Pepsi brings the dead back to Life”. Well, maybe, but not the careers of Michael Jackson, The Spice Girls or Britney Spears. And for that we are indeed truly greatful. Anyway, it tastes fucking awful.

  • Sam Duncan

    Nope. The author of the initial post was describing the situation in the early-to-mid 1990s, when nobody but a handful of geeks even knew what the internet was even in the U.S., let alone in Eastern Europe. And he could have seen the same stuff in the eighties.

    Fair point. I hadn’t taken that into account. Although it was around even then. I remember friends of mine in the early ’90s swapping floppies full of JPEGs from Usenet.

    But you’re still probably correct. That sort of thing wouldn’t have any effect on language, even if it was going on in the Balkans of the period.

  • A good number of shops in Russia have their signage in English, supermarket being one of the more common.

  • Michael Brazier

    Have you considered the possibility that Noam Chomsky is right, and English is the true ur-language underlying all other forms of speech?

  • michael farris

    “It’s definitely not a significant mechanism in the overall spread of English in ex-Yugoslavia.”

    I believe the widespread adoption of micro-standards probably is playing a role.

    warning: glottopolitical theorizing follows:

    In my own terminology, a micro-standard is a standard language calculated to apply (and appeal) to as few people as possible.

    Often, this is at least partially imposed by outsiders as part of a divide and conquer (or keep down) strategy. The Soviets did this, creating several more standard written Turkic languages in central asia than necessary.

    It also happened in SAfrica where the most widely spoken language in the country (Nguni) was divided up into at least three different written standards (Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi). This was part of the stragegy of apartheid (a major policy of which was to try to make it hard for blacks to cooperate across internal divisions).

    In Yugoslavia, the primary impetus came from the local populations. Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are all minor local vernaculars that few outsiders are going to be interested in.
    Nobody liked the name Serbo-Croatian, but it was a major regional language under any name (I’d go for Shtokavian since all the standard languages are based on that but it might sound silly to native speakers).

    Anyway, when speakers of languages that are mostly mutually intelligible choose to make their language loyalties as small as possible the languages lose overall status even among native speakers and go looking for a colonial language (if they call it that or not).

  • Gregory

    I wouldn’t trust Chomsky if he told me the sun rose in the east and set in the west. I won’t trust him if he told me he had balls (in this case, you know, I think I’d be right).

    Consider this, however; English is a robber’s language. The base of English, after all, is Germanic and Anglic, with a fair amount of French thrown in, not to mention Greek and Latin. Once you lot came into Empire, you started raping every other language wholesale.

    It certainly makes for a rich and expressive language. There are literally words that exist in English that do not exist elsewhere, describing concepts and items no other word will do. The term ‘computer’, for instance, is loosely translated as ‘electric mind’ in Chinese. And the swear word ‘mofo’ is really quite unique also – although, again, in Chinese, it’s the action and not the person that is used as an oath.

    Like it or not, English is the true international language. Maybe Mandarin will become a competitor in a decade or so – but then again, maybe not.

  • Millie Woods

    First a point about my first post. Another poster introduced linguistic terminology such as phoneme and morpheme. This is just to warn everyone that those terms have been hijacked and abused by the educational establishment and consequently when thrown around outside the field of linguistics are meaningless.
    Second a joke about translation. In the early days of machine translation it was soon discovered that while literal language was doable – proceedings of an international mathematical congress and such like – figurative language was a no-no.
    Supposedly a Soviet machine translation of the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak came out as the wine’s great but the food’s awful.
    Out of sight, out of mind translated as blind and insane.

  • Ivan

    Millie Woods:

    First a point about my first post. Another poster introduced linguistic terminology such as phoneme and morpheme. This is just to warn everyone that those terms have been hijacked and abused by the educational establishment and consequently when thrown around outside the field of linguistics are meaningless.

    And could you please point out how exactly my usage of these terms is incorrect? It seems to me like you are the one who proposed an absurd hypothesis and is now trying to obscure the issue by making a sweeping and unsupported claim that what I write is “meaningless”.

  • And could you please point out how exactly my usage of these terms is incorrect?

    Speaking as a PhD student in Linguistics, I find your use of the terms perfectly accurate. And in fact, your analysis in general through this thread has been right. Just as you say, native speakers are generally unaware just how much eliding they do, and I’m right with you (as are most SLA researchers) that motivation (including “the cool factor”) plays a major part in the success of any learner in acquiring a foreign language.

  • ODY

    Based on my experiences… The whole world knows enough english to separate me from the dollar in my pocket.

  • Boulos

    Syria recently announced a law to “Arabize” all shop signs to keep with its Arab identity, although many shop owners disagree and may well try and resist. English on shop signs is quite widespread, and arguably necessary for some places where there are a lot of tourists.
    As for Totten being “informative as ever” I find him a very dubious source, having encountered him in Beirut where his idea of “journalism” and understanding different religious sects was in the bars, not out on the streets, esp. in Hizbullah areas, of whom he is paranoid. Numerous other stories one could go into, but don’t have the time or space….