Top positive review
28 people found this helpful
A short history of the rise of a language to dominance
on 10 February 2003
This is a fascinating review of how the English Language got to its present position of world dominance. David Crystal is not, contrary to Daniel's review, a linguistic imperialist. He lives in Wales, speaks Welsh, and champions minority languages. But he also understands that an interconnected world needs a global lingua franca, which will be a second language for the great majority.
From Daniel's review, you might get the impression that Crystal advocates fertilizer bags having instructions only in English. In fact, Crystal is quoting the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, who said that farmers in her country should learn English as a second language, since international companies were never going to print instructions on fertilizer bags in Sinhalese. She was simply being realistic.
Crystal recognises that the dominance of English today is the result of chance, the language repeatedly being in the right place at the right time. If English had not become the common second language, another language would have done so. Crystal gives us the reasons for English's rise, the history, the effects on other languages and some predictions of where its going. It's quite a short book, and I would have preferred more detailed discussion in places. But it's certainly worthwhile reading.