Classical versus Vulgate/popular English. (On-Going Topics)

By Hoffman, Melvin J. | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Classical versus Vulgate/popular English. (On-Going Topics)


Hoffman, Melvin J., Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This article explores technological change affecting international English. Before broadcast media, both educated and non-educated people relied on print news and entertainment. After that, popular media, mostly U.S. and U.K. provided common international English vocabulary of brand names, products, and personalities. The information age also brought new international English vocabulary, but cost and educational requirements limits availability to advantaged speakers of English whether native, second or foreign language. Consequently, two international English vocabularies exist. One is popular and widespread; the other concerns finance, technology and the academy.

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Industrial developments in 18th and 19th century Anglophone nations accompanied trade-union and public-education growth, and newspaper preeminence before broadcast media. Class-conscious Britain marked social status by accent, grammar and vocabulary, but people with enough money could hire tutors like Eliza Doolittle. (G.B. Shaw, 1999-2000) Others--in domestic service, sales, and other contact with genteel speakers--could upgrade if they could model speech. Standard U.S. speech reflected less overt class-marking.

Lawyers, doctors, diplomats, financiers, and others used vocabulary, opaque to laypersons, even after higher education dropped Latin. However, professions demanded less preparation as fewer began work in their late twenties or early thirties.

Literacy, widespread in what became Anglophone G-7 nations, did not simply serve employment. Everyone obtained news through print; the illiterate had notices and articles read to them. Novels, short stories, and serialized works entertained both less and more educated.

The Rise of Technology

The 20th century brought change though film, record players, and radio. Videos did not exist; commercial radio began in 1926; fewer stations existed, and "portables" were not very portable. ("Broadcasting," 1999-2000)

The 1950s saw mass-produced affordable American televisions. ("Broadcasting ... Television," 1999-2000) Also, MIT's Lincoln Laboratory's first computer network, Semi-Automatic Ground Environment linked missile sites. ("Telecommunications ... SAGE," 1999-2000)

The first time-sharing computer operating system, also MIT designed, began in 1961. In 1969, the Advanced Research Projects Agency's first network, ARPANET preceded the Internet, linking heterogeneous computers on military installations and tertiary institutions. ("Telecommunications ... Advances in Telephony," 1999-2000)

Throughout history, income disparities have created various inequities like unequal access to information. In the present, computers--crucial to international e-commerce and to lucerative professions--are costly. E-globalization has denied many English speakers international English vocabularies, limited to higher education and specialized work environments. Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., G-7 nations, affect world economic superstructure beyond their speakers' numbers. For example, the 1944 Bretton Woods conference begat the World Bank (2000) and International Monetary Fund (2000 [I.M.F.]), both later attached to the U.N. The former's board of governors is elected from every member nation. However, five of 24 directorships are permanent for the most financially supportive nations like the U.S. and the U.K. The I.M.F.'s 24 member board of directors operates similarly. Washington D.C. hosts both, and governors meet and directors conduct business twice or thrice weekly. Banking, business, and investment English is spoken, the international financial English of Anglophone Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. Similarly, delegates to the U.N.'s General Assembly work and reside in English-speaking New York City. The internet-served stock exchange in the city harboring the U.N., descends--ironically--from the military network ARPANET mentioned earlier. …

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