English: From Language of Empire to Language of Globalisation

  • Sue Wright


This chapter looks at the reasons for the spread of English, the lingua franca that displaced French from that role and finds that there are many parallels between the biographies of the two languages. English first increased in numbers of speakers in the wake of British imperial power and trading success. However, the waning of English that would have accompanied the end of the British Empire and the decline of British economic and political power did not take place, because English was also the language of the United States, the next group to dominate. The reasons for the spread of this lingua franca are no different in kind from any of the lingua francas of the past, but the extent of its penetration at the end of the twentieth century outstripped that of any lingua franca of the past. It is this gigantism which makes it particular and its future development in the twenty-first century more difficult to predict. One thing is quite clear, however: language planners at the national level can only respond to this phenomenon and not direct it.


United States Language Policy Language Planning Film Industry Language Shift 
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Copyright information

© Sue Wright 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sue Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PortsmouthUK

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