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In the future, will only one unified language exist on earth, which will be spoken and used for writing by all humans?

Will all the other languages and various forms that language become extinct and only one major language will be considered as the language of planet earth?

If this might happen. which might become the language of earth in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 1 '16 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ 2500 AD?! Is this about acoustic language of naturally born, randomly mutating humans? If so, why? What kind of society are we even talking about? Many predictions put the end of our era before 2100; even if technology were to stagnate, population growth would cause extreme, hardly predictable turmoil well before 2200 AD. We are in the midst of rapid, accelerating changes unlike anything anyone has seen before. We barely have a clue how things will look 30 years from now. To answer this question, we need to know how we get to 2500 in any way we can reason about. $\endgroup$ – Vandroiy Nov 1 '16 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ Given where translation software is already at, I'm going to say that by the year 2500, we've probably transcended "words" and "languages" altogether and gone straight to devices that convey ideas and meaning at a fundamental level, rendering the question and the premise largely irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Kaz Nov 1 '16 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ This question appeared in the VTC queue with votes for POB. I'm not at all convinciced that this question is primarily opinion-based. Historical data concerning dead and dying languages can be used to legitimately discuss whether or not the world would eventually resolve to a single language and the infusion of langugage into culture, business, and technology can be used to predict which (e.g., worldwide aircraft control is in English, etc.). I do not believe this question is POB. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 1 '18 at 13:59

16 Answers 16

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Magic 8-Ball says: Unclear, ask again.

Now seriously:

Languages die out if they don't manage to gain additional speakers at a rate as least as big as people that speak it die. A language gains additional speakers when it is beneficial in one of two ways:

  • either it is useful (for example because many people speak it)
  • or it is a crucial point of cultural identification

In modern day's world, many tiny languages die out because of the need of a trade language is big and young people from other groups would rather learn a more widespread language than a more indigenous language. However, here the state steps in, aiming to protect national identity by enforcing its national language(s) and trying to teach people additional languages for international trade. This is usually English, which is the most common language learned as an additional language in the western hemisphere, but most day to day business is conducted in the national language. Before the fall of the Soviet Union (CCCP), there was a large block in which Russian had that position, and still day to day life was done in the national languages.

A good example for language diversity would be South Africa: it has 11 official languages and a vast list of other languages with special status, all guaranteed protection in the constitution (provision 6).

On the other hand, lines between languages blur: English starts to pick on words from other languages, other languages pick up words from English. However, the intrinsic sentence structure of languages is incompatible at times, which prevents this - think about a Latin sentences with Ablativus Absolutus, which can not be built in this fashion in English. These hinder drift to only one language to a big degree.

Another item that hinders conglomerating to one language is the question of the writing system. While English and most western European languages use the basic Latin alphabet (with varying diacritics), most eastern Europeans use the Cyrillic alphabet, then there is the Greek alphabet and the Arabic letters, Hindi, Chinese Characters, 3 sets of Japanese characters and Korean lettering, just to name some of the more used writing systems. These can't be put 1:1 often, and while there are ways to transliterate everything or use the international phonetic alphabet, it is a barrier for native speakers of one type to learn another.

All in all: No, I don't think that all but one language will vanish until 2500, but maybe there will be one language that almost everybody speaks in addition to their national/native language(s).

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 1 '16 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ Another interesting angle on why languages die: Sometimes they are limited. There are a lot of niche sign languages that are being lost because they lack the ability to express a concept in that language. If the other language has words to express a concept they need, they'll either incorporate it (hence making languages more homogeneous) or they'll take on that language. $\endgroup$ – SGR Nov 1 '16 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ being limited can cut down the usefulness of a language - you won't write about war in a language that lacks a word for war. However, there are (sign) languages that are extremely limited yet used worldwide, not because of their complexity but because of their simplicity and limited patterns, reducing miscommunication and speeding up training: Military and diver hand signs are (pretty) universal and just contain a vocabulary of at best 50 concepts, that can span from 1 word to a full sentence. $\endgroup$ – Trish Nov 1 '16 at 16:29
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    $\begingroup$ Another factor, apart from language death, would be language birth, as in specific groups of speakers evolving their use of a language to eventually result in a new language. This is happening to a certain extent with the different spanish speaking countries all across the americas (I'm from spain, and have travelled around central and south america, and it is peculiar how much the language changes from one country to the next). This is more pronounced the more isolated a group of speakers is from everyone else, particularly in rural areas or places with low education standards. $\endgroup$ – Oskuro Nov 2 '16 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with how you list the Latin, cyrillic and greek alphabets separately even though they are different writing systems, the reason is that you can easily phonetically borrow any word from one language using any alphabet to another language using any other alphabet without changing it's meaning. This is because alphabets write their words phonetically and as long as the same phonemes used in the word exist in both languages that word can be written in a different alphabet without changing it's meaning vilyosiped is the russian word for бйceкoл for example. sorry I switched the alphabets $\endgroup$ – skout Oct 5 '18 at 17:43
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I think that all the others are right, but they don't have to be.

If you want everyone to speak a single language there are a few ways that it could be done:

  1. Empire. Some time in the next 500 years a world power arises that is able to lay claim to a large percentage of the globe. This new empire decrees that language X should be the official language, be taught in all schools, and should be used for any and all business. While not all languages in its domain will die out, over several generations it will begin to become the first language for everyone, and by generation 4 or 5 there will be kids that won't even bother to learn the old language because it's so old fashioned and out of date with modern times. If the empire is large enough, they'd be able to influence the language of every other country, since if you want to do anything but local business you pretty much have to do it in language X.

  2. Singularity. The mind/machine barrier is broken, virtual worlds become real, knowledge transfer becomes common. All of the sudden there is no barrier of entry for learning a new language; plug in, push a button, now I know Chinese, and German, and Russian.
    Each language has things that it is especially good at, and if there is no language barrier then people will use the language that most fits their need/mood/situation. At this point we wouldn't so much be down to one language, as we'd be to the point where language just doesn't matter any more. I'm speaking to you in Dutch, you're replying in Italian, mid sentence I switch to French for some really heart felt swearing.
    Edit from extended comments: with enough processing power and background data, we may be able to remove a lot of the language while moving more toward abstract concepts, and could eventually end up with something like Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. This is essentially communication through memes, where people know what they mean and what they imply without having to spell it all out. Edit 2: Also, my apologies for implying that Dutch isn't a perfectly good language for swearing. I'm sure it's great, I just don't have any experience to draw from.

  3. Just because you want it to be. In Firefly we are expected to believe that most of the galaxy speaks Chinese as a primary language, despite there being very few Chinese people in evidence. This is an artistic decision that made sense to the writers, and meant they could have swearing without resorting to made up words (like Battlestar Galactica and most YA fiction).
    You don't even have to explain why. "I don't know why. It's just always been this way, going back to my great-great-great-grandparents at least."

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 1 '16 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ The only flaw to this answer is switching away from Dutch for swearing. $\endgroup$ – Vaesper Nov 2 '16 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Vaesper Honestly, my only knowledge of swearing in other languages comes from youtube.com/watch?v=K1BHuYOb8fM which is why I chose french in the example. Also the phrase "Pardon my French" $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Nov 2 '16 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ Your global empire will always have people fighting against it, and these people will want to retain their languages and cultures. $\endgroup$ – Shautieh Nov 2 '16 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 Like he said "like wiping your ass with silk". Certainly has its charm, but you might be interested in this compilation of swearing in Dutch movies (NSFW). Completely offtopic but still, the more you know :). $\endgroup$ – Vaesper Nov 2 '16 at 13:25
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I'm with the "No" camp, also, but wanted to post this NY Times article about the rate of language loss. Given that most things happen at exponential and not linear rates with populations, if the trend continues it suggests we might be down to 200-250 languages in 500 years. It wouldn't be until about 3300CE that there was a single language.

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    $\begingroup$ My immediate reaction was "it's possible, but 500 years is too soon" so I'm with you. $\endgroup$ – hobbs Nov 1 '16 at 3:48
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No

The basic reason is simple: most people on the earth speak more than one language. There are many places where there is one local language that you grow up speaking with your family, and another 'global' language that you use for business or communicating with the outside world.

In Africa, there are many local languages, but many people speak a regional language like Swahili, Hausa, or Dyula; or a global language like English, French, or Arabic. In India, there are many regional languages but most national publications are written in English. Only about 400 million of 1.2 billion Chinese speak Mandarin as their first language. Even people who grow up with a global language as their first language often learn a second one, like the prevalence of English speaking in Mexico or France.

So because most people can easily learn two or three languages, there is no need for people to limit themselves to one. Given people's proclivity for maintaining group culture and identity, it is next to impossible to think that people will abandon the languages that make them distinct.

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Will there even be speech?

500 years into the future it is completely impossible to predict how we will have evolved biologically, technologically and these two combined. Assuming that in 500 years time we will still go through the flawed and imprecise process of...

  1. translating the thoughts we wish to communicate into words
  2. transmitting those words through some kind of physical medium, such air, paper or light
  3. translating the words back into thoughts

...is kind of folly. Already today, 500 years before your scenario, we have started interfacing computers directly with the brain-stem.

Where this development will end is anybody's guess. But to assume we will still be speaking or writing in the traditional sense is very naive.

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    $\begingroup$ Now the question has just shifted to whether there will be only one computer language... $\endgroup$ – Michael Nov 1 '16 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael No, it has not. The question is: will we use spoken/written language at all? Yes, there will be protocols for transferring thoughts from one person to another (assuming we still use something as primitive as digital binary signaling), but a protocol is not a language. It is just part of a carrier. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Nov 1 '16 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Karnerfors: I don't think that works, since many thoughts require the internal use of language in order to think them. So if you could somehow transfer a (monolingual) English speaker's thoughts to a Chinese speaker, the result would be gibberish. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 1 '16 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ "but a protocol is not a language" I find that statement true but misleading. Language has two parts: the syntax and the semantics. If you swap the syntax, you're speaking a different language. I acknowledge that protocol and language are not the same, but one is a part of the other. If you have two different protocols then you're effectively speaking two different languages. It gets tricky because of cases like encryption (is encrypted text a different language? No, because no one understands the encryption directly.) but I think it's close in this case. $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 31 '16 at 22:10
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The classes of morphemes are stable upon temporal transformation if and only if the socially normalized value of their acquisition causes them to be disjoint with the kernel of said temporal transformation.

Does that make any sense to you? Technically it's English. It's my best attempt at sounding like a snooty journal article (my apologies to the actual writers of journal articles -- I'm sure my example sounds exactly as bad as it is). The point of it is to note that just because we call the language "English" doesn't mean that you can always read it. In particular, technical language is notoriously difficult to understand unless you are well versed in that field.

The boundaries of language are never quite as crisp as one might imagine. We label languages as English and French and Chinese because they are distinct enough that we find value in noting those distinctions. That's really all there is to it.

Let's create a counterpoint to my English "journal article" quote. You are on Chinese soil, taking pictures. A man with a gun yells at you "Tíngzhǐ! Tíngzhǐ!" loudly while waving his hands and advancing at you. If you stop taking pictures, then that man has communicated effectively. It doesn't matter that you don't speak Chinese. In fact, it doesn't even matter that all I did was throw "stop" into Google translate to get "Tíngzhǐ" and hope that I didn't make a grievous grammatical error in my usage of that word. Communication still occurred. So we have examples where we fail to communicate, even though we spoke the same language (because I used a stilted faux technical dialect) and an example where communication was successful, even though there was a language barrier! It's a good thing too, because it really doesn't matter what nation I choose to pick on... they all have men with guns who need to communicate with you which activities they wish you to cease.

So that suggests that truly, we would all "speak the same language" when it becomes convenient for us to all think of ourselves as one group speaking the same language. We still won't always be able to communicate, even though we speak "the same language" but that's normal. On the other hand, if it is too hard to communicate between individuals, the language may stretch and drift until there are truly two distinct languages and they are "one language" in name only. In such a strained state, the language could fracture into two.

We have a related distinction known as a "dialect." Dialects are part of the same language, rather than being languages of their own. That being said:

There is no clear distinction between a language and a dialect, notwithstanding a famous aphorism attributed to linguist Max Weinreich that "a language is a dialect with an army and navy". For example, national boundaries frequently override linguistic difference in determining whether two linguistic varieties are languages or dialects. Hakka, Cantonese and Mandarin are, for example, often classified as "dialects" of Chinese, even though they are more different from each other than Swedish is from Norwegian. Before the Yugoslav civil war, Serbo-Croatian was considered a single language with two dialects, but now Croatian and Serbian are considered different languages and employ different writing systems. In other words, the distinction may hinge on political considerations as much as on cultural differences, distinctive writing systems, or degree of mutual intelligibility. (Wikipedia)

So will we have "one language" by the year 2500? I think that question is highly related to "How common will the human experience be in 2500?" If everyone is doing exactly the same sort of thing, there will be a lot of natural pressures to unify language. If humanity stratifies, it is more likely that we will continue to rely on multiple languages. Thus, I leave the answer to you: where do you think the world will be in 2500?


And of course, one has to consider the wisdom of the commenters:

Another conclusion that can be drawn from your example is that there is always at least one other shared language available: the language of violence. – Trevor Alexander

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Yes, but. . . . And, if just one language survives, barring major geopolitical upheaval with a country that speaks some other language conquering the world militarily, religiously or otherwise (a la the Firefly universe where the Chinese become dominant at some point with linguistic consequences), it will be English.

Honestly, by 2500, I think it would be more likely that we would be down to a dozen or so major languages with languages like Finnish, Basque, Catalan, Hungarian, Yoruba, many of the official languages of India, Mongolian, and similar currently non-endangered languages in an endangered or even moribund status, it would probably take longer to get down to just one dominant language even though the writing would be on the wall. But, it wouldn't take a huge push of some sort, such as a single global college entrance exam administered only in English, to tip the balance.

We already use English as a common global language in fields like international air travel and scientific publication. Countries from Japan to Sweden to Finland to India make learning English as much of a requirement for their elites as learning Latin or French used to be in much of the world.

English, French, Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese is spoken to some extent almost everywhere in addition to other languages. The main national languages of North and South America and Australia are English, Spanish, Portugese and French (and French is in peril as people in Quebec have to learn English as a second language to function in their larger country). English is more unifying in India than Hindi. Much of Africa uses French or Arabic or English as a lingua franca in addition to local languages which are fading because they don't have socioeconomic prestige or a wide enough community of people who speak them. China and many of its expatriot communities can speak some version of Chinese. Arabic is spoken in some form or another across the Islamic world and in many places has supplanted previous local languages almost entirely.

More people in China learn English than visa versa, first of all because Chinese is not a single spoken language even though there is unity in Chinese characters, and secondly because English has a global spread while many Chinese languages are spoken only in regions within China.

There is a strong tendency for any top level sovereign government to make a language dominant and that dominance in positions of power leads people to adopt it.

The source of the prediction of the death of up to 90% of all languages by the end of the 21st century is a 01992 paper titled The World's Languages in Crisis by Michael Krauss, professor emeritus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and expert on the indigenous Alaskan language Eyak, whose last native speaker passed away in 02008. Krauss arrived at this estimate based on the best available sources at that time. Today 457 or 9.2% of the living languages have fewer than 10 speakers and are very likely to die out soon, if no revitalization efforts are made. 639 of the languages known to have existed are already extinct – 10% of all languages.

Moreover, we now know that since 1960 we have lost as many as 28 entire language families. . . . . We know of a hundred language families that have gone extinct over the course of history - 24% of the world's linguistic diversity. But the fact that 28 of them have gone extinct over the relatively short time span of the last 50 years is symptomatic of the accelerated rate of language loss we are experiencing in recent times.

[There are] 3,176 endangered languages.

From here.

According to a September 18, 2007 article in the New York Times reporting on National Geographic study:

Of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in this century. In fact, they are now falling out of use at a rate of about one every two weeks.

Some endangered languages vanish in an instant, at the death of the sole surviving speaker. Others are lost gradually in bilingual cultures, as indigenous tongues are overwhelmed by the dominant language at school, in the marketplace and on television.

New research, reported today, has identified the five regions of the world where languages are disappearing most rapidly. The “hot spots” of imminent language extinctions are: Northern Australia, Central South America, North America’s upper Pacific coastal zone, Eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and Southwest United States. All of the areas are occupied by aboriginal people speaking diverse languages, but in decreasing numbers.

The study was based on field research and data analysis supported by the National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, an organization for the documentation, revitalization and maintenance of languages at risk. The findings are described in the October issue of National Geographic magazine and at www.languagehotspots.org.

Languages are like operating systems, compatibility is key to their value and a perfectly good language is useless if no enough other people speak it. And other languages can be purged so quickly because language survival happens in more or less the same way for all similarly situated smaller languages in parallel. The smaller, indigeneous languages that are not official languages of any states will go first, then the smaller languages that are part of states as everyone in those countries learns to speak a common language to survive in a small world connected global economy, and finally the bigger languages will grow less popular as people see less value in passing them onto their children as native languages.

Now for the "but". If a single clearly identifiable world language, or at least a mere handful of remaining living languages were spoken, wouldn't necessarily mean the total extinction of other languages even if they were rarely used in the way it did for languages that were never committed to writing.

Sumerian survived for centuries as a liturgical language in the Akkadian empire which was linguistically Semitic. Hebrew and Latin and Coptic likewise survived at liturgical languages long after they ceased to be languages of daily life and have even been revived in Israel and Vatican City respectively, as living languages. There are still people who can read Egyptian hieroglyphics, ancient Mayan writing, Sanskrit, and Tocharian, even though the surviving descendants of these languages are much different today. Any language committed to writing and recorded in video will survive as an esoteric means of academics, spiritualists and hobbyists to commuicate as a secondary language.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sumerian language actually even has speakers today, but almost all of them are historians and archaeologists that research the topic. $\endgroup$ – Trish Nov 2 '16 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ Sort of. The trouble is that none of the current speakers of Sumerian has ever spoken to anyone who learned Sumerian (however many iterations of instruction from second language speakers may have passed between them) from someone who learned it from a native speaker. Hebrew, Latin and Coptic all had a continuous chain of second language speakers that trace back to a native speaker of those languages. But, there were many centuries during which no one in the entire world spoke Sumerian, so the pronunciation, usage and meaning of today's speakers are mere guesses based upon written sources. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 2 '16 at 21:50
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No. There may well be fewer languages around, as minority ones die out. But I don't think there will be only one left. You might have a common second language - as is the case for English in aviation - where there are vital safety related reasons that people need to communicate with pilots from other countries.

But in general - why would mainstream languages die out? I don't buy IndigoFenix's idea that languages will blur together in a few generations - just look at Europe for a counter example. Countries with different languages sharing borders for many centuries, and apart from loan words creeping in, no sign of ending up with a single language.

And with advances in computer translation, a lot of the need for a common language goes away - if your browser can autotranslate into your language, or youe phone can run through a translator, why change? Who'd want to switch away from their native language - you'd lose access to your native literature, recorded audio / films, not to mention having to redo a lot of signage - and with no great benefits.

Even when it would make economic sense, it doesn't seem to catch on - I believe the European Union beurocracy spends a lot on translators. It'd be simpler to do something like going through esperanto - then you just need to translate into and out of esparanto, which would need fewer translators than going from every language A to every other language B. But it hasn't happened.

So fewer languages left, certainly. A small number - maybe even a single - common second language, quite possibly. But a single common language over that short a timescale? No way. And if machine translation really takes off, then the need for a common second language goes away.

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Yes

We are entering the age of the Internet. Everybody is talking to everybody, all over the planet. This is going to accelerate the trend towards a single global language.

I suspect that language will be English. Chinese is simply too computer-unfriendly to catch on. If the Chinese were to start using a phonetic alphabet, they would stand a chance, but I don't think they are not going to do that.

Exactly which language will be dominant depends on near-future political and cultural dominance, and is hard to predict. Maybe Brazil will be the next superpower and everybody will learn Portuguese...

I expect that in less than a hundred years, everybody will understand the global language, but will keep a native language for talking to neighbours and family.

A few hundred years more and more people will stop bothering with the native language and just learn the global language.

By 2500 the whole thing will be over.

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When people live in a single culture, or even many cultures that communicate frequently, their languages will tend to blur together over a few generations. With the creation and easy access of the Internet, people all over the world are able to communicate with each other. I do not find it unlikely that languages will naturally blur together in a few generations.

However, other cultural divides can occur, even among people who are able to communicate. It is not uncommon historically for aristocrats to use a unique language specifically to separate themselves from the "common folk", although they typically still are capable of speaking the common language. Academics can also play a part - even today, the lingo common to a particular academic field may be virtually unintelligible to someone who is not familiar with it.

There may be other factors that prevent the natural blurring of languages: maybe the new world may develop non-geographical cultural barriers that we can't even imagine, a new paradigm created by the Internet. Or maybe the Internet will not last that long for whatever reason, putting us back on the local communication paradigm. But it seems most likely that the world will develop a single language within the next 200 years or so if not sooner.

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Probably certain languages will die in future, while current languages will change a bit, but I see there's Always room for new langs or dialects, people, especially Young people, tends to create their own Language with new words. I do not think 2500 years are a resonable time for a unified Language, unless of course something big happens ( I mean big political events, iper-globalization etc, not wars, because wars creates division and hence move the Language in opposite direction).

In past some big empires lasted thousands of years, but they were not able to get a unified Language (ok, they hadn't internet too).

Just think to computer languages, instead of having 1 programming Language even more languages emerge every year, this is not the same as a spoken Language, but I hope I give the idea.

So my advice:

1 Unified Language is unlikely to be plausible, unless you give a very good reason for that.

Just a example:

  • a country conquer the world, and gives tax reliefs only to people engaged to 1 person of that country or that pass an exam about that official Language (hope it is not a hard Language)
  • some disease kills most people in other countries except 1 (note, I think Readers could find that a racist thought, so beware).
  • farmaceutical industries find a drug that make people smarter, someone leaks the formula and shortafter all people in the world is so smart that can learn new languages daily and in few decades all languages become unified in a new Language, then after some time people becomes immune to that drug and lose the incredible intelligence thus it maintains the new Language.
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Languages are purpose driven, consider the sign language, programming languages, Maths... With that being said, I don't see how humanity could ever have one purpose, unless they are all cloned.

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  • $\begingroup$ More than this languages instill different purpose and understanding. $\endgroup$ – joojaa Nov 2 '16 at 5:49
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Not In The Way You Suggest

Languages exist to help people to communicate. For that Reason, they have to be useful. Following that logic, there could be a world-wide language. However, language is also part of cultural identity. People will always speak the language of their culture, and I laugh at anyone that would tell me the Earth will ever have one united culture (or government, for that matter...). However, like the Roman Empire, you could have people all speaking their local language, and have an international language that everyone knows how to speak. But there will still be individual languages.


We Kind Of Already Do

There is one language, that while not spoken, is written by nearly everyone on earth. Math! The (Indo) Arabic numeral system is used by nearly every nation on Earth (except for a few of them, ironically which are either Arabic or India (I could be wrong)). In any case, the Arabic numerals and other symbols we use in mathematics communicate information, and are understood by most people in the world.

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  • $\begingroup$ to quote a mathematican: "If you claim math is a universal language, you never tried to read a math theorem. There are pages of text trying to explain the logic leaps between formulae, and those are plain old English." $\endgroup$ – Trish Oct 23 '17 at 4:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Trish Just because it is universal doesn't mean everyone knows everything about it. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 25 '17 at 4:21
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Actually, I support the idea of a single language. The only thing is, it would have to be a new language with words and ideas from cultures all around the world. This would help unify our planet and set our minds toward space exploration or advancing our technology. That way, we can hope to fend off any "aliens" that may "visit" us in the future. In a way, this really reminds me of Star Trek. I guess that is pretty strange, because 2500 is the 26th century and humans in Star Trek pull this feat off far before that!

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    $\begingroup$ Esperanto tried this. No unity resulted, and noöne really cared. And the Federation doesn't speak one language - not even the population of Earth speaks a single language. It's just that English (or whatever you want to call it) is pretty much the official language - similar to how the proto-slavic language was though to have spread so far and wide while also having barely any regional variations, despite the communication limits of the time. It was never a language people used to talk to each other - it was the official language, and it took a long time to be adopted as "native" language. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Nov 1 '16 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. However, in Star Trek, their translator pretty much creates an illusion of this. Also, if we were to have a powerful translator like that, what need would we have for a single language? We would already have the power to unify our planet. We already do have the power to unify our planet. Only problem is, most people have tried to do so using violence. $\endgroup$ – IamGuest Apr 30 '17 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Earth's history begs to differ - until the universal translator is perfect (which the one shown in Star Trek certainly isn't), you'll get plenty of blunders that cause wars. $\endgroup$ – Luaan May 1 '17 at 17:24
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Short answer: to have one (native) language shared by every human being in the universe would be almost impossible.

Long answer:

note: all numbers are very rough estimates.

It would be almost impossible to have one shared (by shared I mean that any one human can understand any other human wherever they are from) native language.
The reason is the following:
Every language has dialects. Lets estimate the difference between these dialects to be 100-200 words every one hours journey (the faster people can go (to talk to neighbours note: this assumes that ), the larger the areas of the dialects).
Let us assume that the language in question has roughly half a million words in total (probably more than the words in the English language, but time turns into technology, which needs more words, and there will probably be a lot more synonyms because people will forget what words to use and invent new ones(which will later become standardised)).
Assuming that the population continues to grow, you will need cities on the ocean floor (as well as colonies on Mars, orbiting cities etc., but the question asks about language on earth).

[...]in 2500 the world population could even top 60 billion at the current growth rate with no intervention by any government, entity or group. (https://www.quora.com/What-will-the-human-population-of-the-world-be-in-the-year-2500)

Currently, the technology is there to cross the pacific in less than a day (i.e. concord), but it is too expensive. Making super-sonic submarines is another matter entirely. Assuming you haven't got fusion power yet, you are still using fossil fuels, which will be about as rare as diamonds (random guess). This means that the average speed will be roughly 30 kilometres per hour.

The metre was originally defined in 1793 as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole.
(wikipedia)

Assuming the earth is a sphere(to make the maths easier) this means that the difference between the dialects at opposite sides of the globe would be:
n=num*((circ/2)/spe)
where circ is the circumference of the earth(4*10 million m), spe is the average speed (30 km/h) and num is the number of words that change per hour of travel (100-200)

I got an answer of 66 666 666.66 to 133 333 333.333. Assuming the numbers that I used were accurate, you could only have a single language where you have a planet less than half the size of Earth.

Note: I have not included anything about telephones, internet, email, etc. because you don't send any messages to people you don't know. If you haven't been to a place, you don't have any friends from there.

However there are ways out:

  • Invent fusion, so you can have people gong at much faster speeds
  • Kill off a lot of your population
  • Use something like the babel-fish from the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
  • If you have one political leader giving speeches every day/week/etc., then the dialect "effect" will be diminished
  • think of something else
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  • $\begingroup$ "because you don't send any messages to people you don't know" ... um, I do that all the time with public posts in forums. I have no idea all the people that will read a given post. Mass media broadcasts are a century old at this point. Mass media is becoming more universal, not less, which I think undermines your entire point. $\endgroup$ – SRM Dec 31 '16 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM that is covered in the "think of something else" at the end of the post. Also, the speeches are mass media broadcasts. $\endgroup$ – Mark Gardner Dec 31 '16 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM another point would be that even on forums, the different cultures generally keep to themselves. Some forums even have separate sub-forums for these cultures. $\endgroup$ – Mark Gardner Dec 31 '16 at 17:43
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Very unlikely in my opinion. Language is tied very strongly to cultural and national identity. It isn't just a way of communicating. It's a reflection of how people think and what they collectively value. For example, take Japan. The Japanese people are very conscious of their social standing relative to others around them. For that reason, Japanese has different words for "brother", depending on whether it's an older brother or a younger brother. (And the same goes for sister). There are different words for co-worker, depending on if it's a senior co-worker or a junior one. Different words for mother and father depending on if you're talking about your own parents or someone else's (and even different words to address your mother and father directly). This is a foreign idea in English because English speakers are much more egalitarian.

For the sake of necessity, there will always be a lingua franca (which today is English - in 200 years it might be Chinese), but there will also always be a desire for people to preserve their heritage. For example, the Irish and Hawaiian languages were thought to be dying in in the middle of the 20th century, but experienced a resurgence as cultural leaders sought to revive them. 100 years ago, children were forbidden to speak Hawaiian in school. Now there are immersion schools wherein students speak nothing but Hawaiian.

I do think there will be a consolidation that causes some languages to die out - most likely in India and Papua New Guinea. However, the chances of all of humanity settling on one language are practically nil.

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protected by Serban Tanasa Nov 1 '16 at 13:33

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