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The Language Revolution Paperback – March 12 2004
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Soelve Ohlander, Moderna Sprak
"An interesting, idea-rich and provoking read."
"This is the first book to deal with the really important question of “what to do next?” After the rise of English, the endangerment of minoritized languages the world over and the web’s tilt toward where the money is, what can we who treasure diversity as the real human (and humanizing) condition “do about” the continued and accelerating demise of scores of languages every month? Crystal is a master of simplifying (but not oversimplifying) the difficult, as well as of involving the reader in ideas and efforts that go beyond the status quo and good intentions. Three cheers for more of the same!'"
Joshua A. Fishman, Yeshiva University, Stanford University and New York University
"A helpful compact overview of global language trends and their relationship to one another."
Jean Aitchison, University of Oxford
"Crystal's insight into the current linguistic climate is valuable, his comment on the revolutionary changes informative and thorough, and his argument characteristically clear."
Dr. Murari Prasad, Yemen Observer Newspaper
From the Back Cover
In this book, David Crystal, one of the world’s authorities on language, brings together for the first time the three major trends which he argues have fundamentally altered the world’s linguistic ecology: first, the emergence of English as the world’s first truly global language; second, the crisis facing huge numbers of languages which are currently endangered or dying; and, third, the radical effect on language of the arrival of Internet technology.
Examining the interrelationships between these topics, Crystal encounters a vision of a linguistic future which is radically different from what has existed in the past, and which will make us revise many cherished concepts relating to the way we think about and work with languages. Everyone is affected by this linguistic revolution.
The Language Revolution will be essential reading for anyone interested in language and communication in the twenty-first century.
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Top international reviews
Crystal makes an interesting argument for English as a global language. He believes that English is already a global language but isn't necessarily a threat to minority languages. He explains that English allows people to bring attention to dying languages and other causes. Most importantly, English has become a global language because it is "a vacuum cleaner of [other] languages."(27) This vacuum cleaner concept allows him to make an interesting comparison to Latin which asserts the differences between the languages. English is spreading and allowing various other languages to evolve the language and use it for their own language needs without stripping their national identity (Spanglish, Japanese English, etc). This leads to Crystal's argument that dying languages must allow their teenagers to play with English because they will not feel isolated thus would be more likely to allow the dying language to evolve and continue to be meaningful.
Crystal provides statistics and clear research to strengthen his theories. The most shocking statistic was that 96 percent of the world's languages are being spoken by only 4% of the world's population. Crystal shares these scary statistics and even provides solutions to the problem. Throughout the book, he uses sarcasm and keeps an optimistic tone so it's not shocking when all his solutions boil down to money. He makes an interesting point that the money needed to revive these dying languages is equivalent to one day of oil revenue. The problem is that people are not aware of the problem. Crystal suggests raising awareness through schools, art and political campaigns. He reflects on how this was already done, what was effective and what needs to be done.
He spends the entire third chapter discussing "netspeak." His analysis of the different aspects of communicating on the internet makes it exponentially easier to accept something so far-fetched as the internet. He argues the internet, though it has some deficits, overall allows for the expansion in the variety of language. He also argues it allows for dying languages, where resources are provided, to be recorded and studied. The internet is a completely new medium of communication which is both exciting but requires our minds to evolve to work within its confines while simultaneously being offered the world in the palm of your hand.
Throughout the book, the theme of sharing languages was prominent. Accepting new technology and using it to save old languages instead of further isolating them. Crystal's positive attitude and sense of humor are engaging. Off the top of my head, he tells a joke about how if Jesus came back today no one would understand him in his native tongue of Aramaic. He clearly explains concepts and offers solutions to problems. He ties up all his loose ends nicely in the last chapter, citing the most important points. A must read for anybody concerned with language, the emergence of multilingualism or the effects of the internet on language. I look forward to reading further works by David Crystal.