Will the English language die out?

Apparently there are almost 7000 languages in the world, half of which have fewer than ten thousand speakers. I heard this in an interview with Nicholas Ostler of the Foundation for Endangered Languages on BBC Radio 4’s “Saturday Live” programme. If you have access to BBC iPlayer then you can hear the interview here. The interview with Nicholas starts at around 09:55 into the programme.

Nicholas talks about why languages die out. One reason is that they go out of business. That is to say the trade that caused the language to be used dies out, and the language goes with it. Another reason is that elite that kept them prominent cease to be the elite. An example of this would be the decline of Latin.

English might be the world’s dominant language now, but it hasn’t always been the case – in fact maybe it has only been so for the last hundred years. Prior to that it was perhaps French, for 1500 years before that it would have been Latin, and for the preceding three millennia it was Egyptian.

So will English remain the (or at least one of the) dominant world languages? Or will it die out? When?

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