April 1st, 2008

ozarque figure

Personal note; mystery quote...

I've been getting e-mails this morning about a story in the Telegraph [at http://tinyurl.com/2m2n77 ] titled "English will turn into Panglish in 100 years," and quoting me. The quote says:

"Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, a retired linguist formerly at San Diego University [sic] in California, said: 'I don't see any way we can know whether the result of what's going on now will be Panglish -- a single English that would have dialects... or scores of wildly varying Englishes, many or most of them heading toward mutual unintelligibility.' How long will it take to find out? 'My guess, a wild guess, is less than 100 years.' "

For the record, I have absolutely no recollection of ever having been interviewed by a journalist from The Telegraph about this topic. That doesn't mean that it didn't happen; I get a lot of calls and e-mails from journalists, and it's possible that I've just forgotten this interview. If that's the case, I sincerely apologize to the journalist for having forgotten.

But I especially do not remember ever claiming that we'll know the fate of the world's Englishes in "less than 100 years." I suppose that's possible, but -- again, for the record -- I want you to know two things: (1) I couldn't produce a single argument to support such a claim. (2) I don't know any method, from linguistics or any other science, by which an argument to support such a claim could be constructed.

If I actually said that line, shame on me.