English as International Language in Geography: Development and Limitations

By Harris, Chauncy D. | The Geographical Review, October 2001 | Go to article overview

English as International Language in Geography: Development and Limitations


Harris, Chauncy D., The Geographical Review


Geographers wish to know about the world. Geographical knowledge is place specific, and most of it is possessed by persons who live in a rich fabric of cultures, in numerous linguistic communities. They write geographical studies for the most part in their own languages. A comprehensive survey in 1980 found that, over the years 1723-1979, 3,445 geographical periodicals and serials had been published in 107 countries in 55 languages (Harris and Fellmann 1980). Rare indeed is the geographer who can read or utilize more than a few of these languages. Languages of wider communication are needed to promote intercommunication among our communities. As a consequence, papers delivered at the quadrennial International Geographical Congresses sponsored by the International Geographical Union (IGU) have been limited to six principal languages. Since 1960 this number has been reduced to two. In recent decades English has increasingly become the medium of communication, both in international congresses and in geographical periodicals and serials published in many countries and distributed over all continents.

The use of English is first assessed in the twenty-nine International Geographical Congresses held since 1871, excepting interruptions during the two world wars. The supplementary use of English in abstracts or texts of geographical periodicals or serials is then examined.

INTERNATIONAL GEOGRAPHICAL CONGRESSES

The number of languages used for communication at International Geographical Congresses has varied over time from six to two. Four principal languages--French, English, German, and Italian--were used in the first fifteen congresses (1871-1938).

These four, plus Portuguese and Spanish, constituted the six languages of record in the next three congresses (1949, 1952, and 1956). But after 1960 only English and French were officially featured in International Geographical Congresses. Democracy of participation might suggest the use of many languages, but efficiency of intercommunication encourages the use of only a few. Indeed, efficiency of international communication is inversely related to the number of languages a geographer must master to understand the papers presented.

Although six languages were used, French and later English generally predominated. At the first such congress, held in 1871 in Antwerp, Belgium, 79 percent of the communications were in French; 12 percent, in German; and only 6 percent, in English. In the century and a quarter since then, French has declined relatively and English has risen to become the global language of international communication (Volle 1996; Harris 1998).

The early congresses had a markedly national or regional character, with a high proportion of the participants coming from the host country or nearby areas. The language of the host country was dominant. In the Paris congresses of 1875 and 1880, 100 percent of the papers were in French, whereas in the London and Washington congresses, held in 1895 and 1904, 55 percent and 82 percent were in English, and in the Berlin congress, held in 1899,56 percent were in German. Omitting congresses held in Francophone or English-speaking countries, the proportion of papers in English before World War I ranged from 5 to 19 percent. This increased to 13-31 percent between the two world wars (Table I).

After World War II, with the rapid improvement in air transportation and in communications that facilitated worldwide participation and with the reduction of congress languages to two to improve intercommunication, English rose rapidly to a dominant position, from 76 percent in 1960 to more than 90 percent since 1980 (except for the 1984 congress, held in Paris).

English and French have been the languages used for IGU business since its founding in 1922, with French the main language used by the Executive Committee and the secretary from 1931 through 1949 and English predominant since 1949. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

English as International Language in Geography: Development and Limitations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.