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Long: So in a previous question (HERE), I asked the plausibility of a disease killing off everyone who could speak a language other than English. This time, I’m asking if there’s a point in history, where (almost) all non-English speaking people could get killed off by a natural disaster? As long as all non-English speakers are killed “naturally” and it doesn’t take more than a generation. The English speakers must not be wiped out.

Short: Is there a point in history, where a natural disaster could make it so that only English speakers survived (and minimal casualties to the English speakers)? The longest it can take is generation.

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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Space station full of tins of beans. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ This question, just like the previous one, blindly assumes that almost all people speak only one language. That's not true. For example, very many people in continental Europe speak English in addition to their national language; in some contries, this is almost universal, with the effect that a disaster which spares almost all English speakers will by necessity also spare almost all Dutch speakers and Swedish speakers. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ VTC because the question makes absolutely no sense. English isn't a genetic disposition and it isn't something unique to an ethnicity of people. English is a composite language made up of Latin, French, German, Spanish, and a bunch of smaller influences that were then changed through the morphing that also causes dialects. Until the last 75 years or so, English wasn't even close the most common language spoken on Earth. (And I have my doubts that that's changed.) (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ ... I suspect nothing less than an ELE occurring while English-speaking astronauts were the only space-faring people aboard a space station is the only possible way you could achieve what you're looking for. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ The flip side to this question is that any population of only English speakers will in two generations start to split into tribal groups speaking different versions of English. Even teenagers speak different from their parents, but that gap is mostly surmountable. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 15:23

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I'll insist on the Horizon: Zero Dawn scenario.

TL;DR: humanity gets wiped out, no survivors. After the disaster passes, new humans are grown in artificial wombs and the 1st generation is educated by AI's. The AI's only speak English, so...

This requires near future tech, say 2100's tech.

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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore there are more of those populated by non-English speakers than otherwise, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 0:13
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    $\begingroup$ Yep, big problem catching all of those while missing the one island we want to keep .. a bit hard to see how you could do it any other way than deliberately and even then it's going to be a bit hard to be sure you've got them all .. still one way to go though, if a less certain one than yours. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ @jbh I am asserting that it is possible at a certain point, but that point is in the future. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ Depends how remote you go, @TheSquare-CubeLaw. Pitcairn is perhaps the most remote, and its inhabitants speak English. $\endgroup$
    – TRiG
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ Instead of a remote island you can go full ELE, zero survivors on the surface of the Earth. Your reseed population is submarine crews. Everyone on US submarines speaks English. You'll have to figure something happens to the Russian boomers, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 5:44
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After the war of 1812 (in this alternate history) in which the US lost, and rejoined the British Empire, the other countries, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, imposed The Great Embargo, in which all other countries were forbidden to trade, or have any dealings at all, with GB and her territories. Soon after, a new plague sweeps across the world, ravishing all of mainland Europe, Asia, and Africa (which was infected through the slave trafficking industry). The British Isles and the Americas, however, were luckily spared. As the years went on, and through "civilising methods", the British territories gradually all adopted the British culture and language.

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    $\begingroup$ The transatlantic slave trade would have been a problem if not for the reunion with the British who outlawed it and that pesky trade embargo preventing it anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ Not every colony necessarily survived. All you need is one $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 1:29
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    $\begingroup$ We'd need an english-speaking population. 1412 is too early for that. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ So a plague wiped out EVERYONE no matter how distant and isolated but Britain and the Americas were spared because of an embargo? What about other places in the Americas? If NO ONE could stop it from spreading through their lands then it would spread to the Americas too from one of the other countries in the continent. This scenario is completely implausible. $\endgroup$
    – TurtleTail
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ Why would Britain be spared and not Hawaii? The Philippines? Australia? If the disease is weak enough that an economic blockeade will stop it then it will leave many insular civilizations remaining $\endgroup$
    – TurtleTail
    Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 18:15
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Nuclear Holocaust

In a different timeline, in the year 2048, mad king Archie I launches the UK's fabulously advanced nuclear arsenal and wipes out all the non Anglophone nations in a perfect first strike. The retaliatory strikes from submarines are negated by HMSDI. (His Majesty's Strategic Defence Initiative).

At the behest of his mother, the Dowager Empress, a ruthless campaign using years of recorded data and AI assisted death squads is then waged to exterminate non Anglophone survivors.

The UK is finally safe from France, the Pretender Empress and the Williamite faction, which was exiled in Paris. Hurrah!

PS America gets forced to use Commonwealth spellings.

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This time, I’m asking if there’s a point in history, where (almost) all non-English speaking people could get killed off by a natural disaster?

In response to the question as asked:

No

not if we're talking "real world" history and related real world possible "natural" disasters rather than a fantasy history/speculative future science fiction "history" where the circumstances can be highly contrived or things can exist like diseases which can be transmitted and correspondingly combatted cognitively/semantically/semiotically rather than physically/biotically/biologically. I, at least, can't honestly think of even a remote chance for "natural causes" in real world history that somehow leaves such a predominant English speaking population as could be described by "(almost) all non-English speaking people could get killed off...".

Even the basic idea that it might be remotely reasonable enough to be believable honestly easily comes across as... concernedly... anglo-centric/euro-centric/american-centric of some kind. The world and world history are much, much larger than the impressions given by American or English history as usually taught in schools. I'm assuming that wasn't an intent in asking, I don't want to sound harsh in turn bringing it up, but I want to be open in providing the perspective that it might not sound great to some people and could bring to mind concerns over what its impetus might be, in case that's not been considered.

To be explicit expounding on "no" as an answer, anything that turns on a biological disease where "isolated communities" survive is going to have just as many or more "isolated communities" speaking other languages as English. Etc.

Extinction level events are going to run into similar issues. Anything natural that kills off such a significant amount of the world's population as to have killed (almost) all non-English speaking people is going to have also killed off such a significant number of English speakers as to result in a surviving population where they aren't proportionally as significant as the posed question implies.

There are no realistic/"natural" circumstances that change this, there are plenty of islands where languages other than English are spoken, and for anything contagious it's simply beyond unrealistic to contrive a scenario where Britain doesn't become infected if it has an R0 high enough to be quickly propagating world-wide. Even island borders are like sieves. Asteroid or similar impacts "on the opposite side of the globe" are still going to leave significant non-English speaking populations, if they leave any English speaking populations alive. Events affecting based on elevation run into the same issues. Hemisphere based events too.

I can think of no point in actual real world history where this would somehow be different in terms of "natural" disasters: if anything, it would be less likely to be even remotely possible to occur historically rather than more. Any balances of less/slower travel would be quickly cancelled by less communication and less related control/monitoring capacity of travel, and less scientific understanding/capability.

Pretzeling to find a "semi-realistic" excuse for basically everyone in a book speaking English (with that as the primary and driving cause alone, rather than a side effect of a progression of events already in motion) seems like... well, either a doomed exercise from the start that will fall short of suspension of disbelief or likely to turn into something that's going to sound very questionable to at least some readers.

"Why do they all speak English" in a novel is usually best:

  • not answered in any way; it's the narration afterall, and doesn't need to be explained at all: sometimes less or even none is more.
  • implicitly answered by describing language barriers between characters but providing all dialogue in English (the narrator is "translating") (particularly recommended when the narrator doesn't speak the languages in question and they aren't fantasy languages, as it's FAR better than botching the languages in question).
  • not done to such an extent, by instead providing starting snippets in other languages accompanied by translation, or some similar balance/mixing. (Ideally only performed by at minimum entirely fluent and culturally immersed authors, or by contracting linguistic copy/translation/editorial help for the work to be done by someone for whom both the culture and language are native if the author is not). This is a lot of work but can be deeply enriching both to the work and the author, in multiple senses.

With that all said, a frame shift Answer that considers a human, rather than "natural" disaster:

(almost) all non-English speaking people get [horribly] killed off by:

A slightly altered historic timeline where the UK was taken over by a populist fascist leader following the first World War, while having advanced a bit over half a century's worth (of real history) ahead of the rest of the world technologically over the course of the preceding century.

Having pooled all of its resources into scientific advancement at the height of its imperial grasp and stability, and having made certain key advancements in the late 1800s, the British Empire achieved jet flight, jet missiles, transistors, transistor based computing, digital wire and radio communication, and nuclear fission power and weaponry--mostly in secret--before 1914. Some of these were used in World War I, but the leadership at the time made decisions to keep the rest secret for holding advantages and for ethical concerns (in the case of nuclear weaponry). During World War I, the concept of using extraterrestrial platforms to relay communications signals was advanced and attempts at space flight begun, under various cover stories which unfortunately backfired in terms of popular sentiment during and immediately after the War.

[making all of this work as advancements just within one country, deeply in secret so not represented in advancements in what's being taught in universities/etc to found further development will be difficult, if it is to be directly addressed. There are multiple real world parallels to far less extent in terms of technological disparity, but most of those occurred during deeply adversarial times, so leeway during the height of the British hegemon might work, especially if represented by similar security practices and drive for rapid advancement as what occurred on those wartime projects]

Held tightly in the grip of autocratic fascism following and in response to the Great War and leadership decisions during it, Britain engaged in a first strike to re-take the American colonies, obliterating the US government and major military command centers with a set of nuclear strikes, seizing resources, and putting to rest the concept of American exceptionalism being anything more than merely a laughably echoed expression of the truth in British dominance. Plundered assets were churned back into establishing a satellite communications network at the highest priority, with the understanding of how key immediate central communication would be given the Britain's previous experience with a global Empire. Initial unrest and a nascent second revolutionary war in America were brutally put to rest with following nuclear strikes on selected population centers. A clear message that there are no United States, only North American Britannia (NAB), which includes Canada.

The Empire then went on a rapidly expanding colonial genocidal spree, conquering and then killing all individuals and populations that didn't assimilate to only speak English under British rule. Because clearly "splendid isolation" had failed and the only answer to establish a lasting Pax Britannia was to make sure the hegemony was such that only that which was Britannia survived across the world. And a primary measure of full indoctrinated assimilation was mandating the use of English only, with harsh measures for any and all deviations (where does this put other UK isles languages such as Scots and Welsh and Cornish and Gaeilge and Gàidhlig and Ullans [where are we on dialect vs language?] and Shelta and Cockney [lol, I tease]? well...).

It's not a "natural" disaster, but it's a very human one with plenty of (horrific) real world history analogues to draw from and real world history to found itself in, and it folds in aspects of historical advancement that are within the realm of possibility, particularly since it relies on now-understood technological aspects rather than anything speculative scientifically.

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The general answer: the survivors have to be a population small enough that anyone who speaks a language other than (or in addition to) English sees no incentive to keep speaking that language, or raising their kids to do so. I have no idea how small that would be.

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    $\begingroup$ The population can be very large, the secondary languages will still die out. I've been watching this happen in China--when the communists seized power they mandated that the schools teach the Beijing version of Chinese speech. Local dialects were not prohibited. The result was anyone reasonably educated spoke Mandarin and the local dialect (or perhaps more--my wife speaks half a dozen.) Now, however, the old population that didn't speak Mandarin is dying out--and the new generation sees no need to learn the local dialect as Mandarin works fine. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel You should make that an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 6:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how my comment is an answer. When everyone knows one language there's little incentive to learn others, but that doesn't cause everyone to know one language in the first place and thus doesn't provide him a solution. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you sort of suggested it. His hypothetical plague doesn't have to kill off all non-English speakers; rather, most of the survivors have to have English as a language in common (as in most of Europe)., Then rulers requires that everyone learn English, regardless of what else they speak. I would expect that speakers of historic languages such as French and German would do their best to keep them alive, but if the populations were small enough, perhaps your Chinese scenario would occur after all. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ But I have no mechanism to either kill off the people who don't speak English nor how a disaster would make the government mandate teaching English. It also takes the non-speakers pretty much dying off--it doesn't fit his timeframe. Thus I do not have an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 5:36

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