Saturday, September 15, 2012

European Colonialism: Spreading Languages

When the New World was colonised by several European nations, they brought their languages with them. It would be silly to ignore the fact that English and Spanish are so widely spoken due to their histories of having vast empires. There's a good reason that they speak Portuguese in Brazil too.

It wasn't just the Americas that were subject to having languages thrust upon them. There's a large presence of French in Africa too, as well as English in India, Hong Kong and Australia.

However, the 19th century wasn't the start of languages being forced upon people. Latin was present across Europe as the lingua franca (that's a Latin expression right there!) thanks to the expansive Roman Empire. Latin's influence in Europe shaped the languages that a very large number of people in the world speak today.

We've heard they also made good salad.

This can be seen if you look at the presence of regional language families across the world:

Romance languages are in dark blue and Germanic languages are in red.

Once you look at the map with Indo-European languages classified together it starts to paint a very different picture.



Of course, it wasn't just colonialism and invasions that shaped the linguistic world. Religion has played a huge part too, but it's the weekend and we're not opening that can of worms just yet!