So asks John McWhorter:
The main loss when a language dies is not cultural but aesthetic. The click sounds in certain African languages are magnificent to hear. In many Amazonian languages, when you say something you have to specify, with a suffix, where you got the information. The Ket language of Siberia is so awesomely irregular as to seem a work of art.
But let’s remember that this aesthetic delight is mainly savored by the outside observer, often a professional savorer like myself. Professional linguists or anthropologists are part of a distinct human minority. Most people, in the West or anywhere else, find the fact that there are so many languages in the world no more interesting than I would find a list of all the makes of Toyota. So our case for preserving the world’s languages cannot be based on how fascinating their variegation appears to a few people in the world. The question is whether there is some urgent benefit to humanity from the fact that some people speak click languages, while others speak Ket or thousands of others, instead of everyone speaking in a universal tongue.
See also this article about Indians who write their novels in English rather than in one of the local Indian languages, partly because they just do, and partly in order to increase their potential readership around the world. The piece is by Chandrahas Choudhury, himself the author of a novel in English. He also blogs.
Both pieces were recently linked to by Arts & Letters Daily, to whom thanks.
I suppose a danger of everyone on earth speaking the same language, as was explained in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is that we would all of us then understand each other’s insults.
… the … Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.
But this is to assume that hostility causes wars. I think it is at least as true to say that wars cause hostility.
Quite aside from the rights and wrongs of English conquering everyone and everything, there is the intriguing question of whether it in fact will so triumph, or whether any other potential universal language, like Spanish or Chinese, will triumph, in the nearish future. Perhaps English will triumph, but in the process it may itself fragment. If one language does triumph, it may well be English, but not necessarily English as I know it.