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I love the new word mentioned in this article: “omnigooglization.” And I’m happy for the French that they’re committed to putting the core of their literary legacy online for posterity, and to be swept up into the omnigooglizing cyberverse.
I seriously doubt that the French language is endangered, either as a written or spoken tongue. Since it’s written in a Latin character set that’s pretty close to English, more people will have online exposure to French-language texts and will roughly familiarize themselves with the tongue (for rudimentary reading, if not speaking or writing). In fact, the same phenomenon will buoy any tongue written in a phonetic alphabet derived from Latin, as long as there’s a significant amount of online literature for that language. We have to face the fact that most people can vocalize the basic Latin alphabet, and, hence, will be able to hack a rudimentary understanding of any tongue based on it. That includes not just the western European languages, but also such non-European tongues as Vietnamese and Indonesian.
However, any literature that isn’t written in a Latin-derived alphabet (e.g., Greek, Russian, Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese) will tend to be shunned or ignored by non-speakers who find it much too difficult to hack their basic character sets. That’s not to say that native speakers of these languages won’t continue to teach them to their children, use them in daily life, and produce wonderful literary works in them. It’s just that English has burned a Latinate character set into most people’s brains.
And that character set is the true world “lingua franca” (a term, and a phenomenon, that should warm of cockles of Jacques Chirac’s heart). My hunch is that, in 500 years’ time, the world lingua franca will be a creolized mixture of English, Spanish, French, and Malayo-Indonesian. I’ve selected those four languages based on the fact that they, in that descending order, have the most native speakers in 2005 for their tongues (all of which use the Latin character sets). If the speakers of some other major world language, such as Mandarin or Arabic, adopt a Latin-derived character set, they may also get swept into this creolizing world tongue. Otherwise, their literature will be purely opaque to most non-speakers, regardless of how much of it is posted to the cyberverse.