英語に作用する求心力と遠心力の問題（cf. 「#2073. 現代の言語変種に作用する求心力と遠心力」 ([2014-12-30-1])）を議論する際には，英語史の知識がおおいに役立つ．英語の歴史において，英語は常に複数形の Englishes だったのであり，単数形 English の発想が生まれたのは，近代以降に標準化 (standardisation) という社会言語学的なプロセスが生じてから後のことである．そして，その近代以降ですら，実際には諸変種は存在し続けたし，むしろ英語が世界中に拡散するにつれて変種が著しく増加してきた．その意味において，English とはある種の虚構であり，英語の実態は過去も現在も Englishes だったのである．
では，21世紀の英語，未来の英語についてはどうだろうか．求心力と遠心力がともに働いていくとおぼしき21世紀において，私たちは English を語るべきなのか，Englishes を語るべきなのか．この問題を議論するにあたって，Gooden (230--31) の文章を引こう．
After undergoing many changes at the hands of the Angles and Saxons, the Norman French, and a host of other important but lesser influences, English itself has now spread to become the world's first super-language. While this is a process that may be gratifying to native speakers in Britain, North America, Australia and elsewhere, it is also one that raises certain anxieties. The language is no longer 'ours' but everybody's. The centre of gravity has shifted. Until well into the 19th century it was firmly in Britain. Then, as foreseen by the second US president John Adams ('English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries [ . . . ] the language of the world'), the centre shifted to America. Now there is no centre, or at least not one that is readily acknowledged as such.
English is emerging in pidgin forms such as Singlish which may be scarcely recognizable to non-users. Even the abbreviated, technical and idiosyncratic forms of the language employed in, say, air-traffic control or texting may be perceived as a threat to some idea of linguistic purity.
If these new forms of non-standard English are a threat, then they are merely the latest in a centuries-long line of threats to linguistic integrity. What were the feelings of the successive inhabitants of the British Isles as armies, marauders and settlers arrived in the thousand years that followed the first landing by Julius Caesar? History does not often record them, although we know that, say, the Anglo-Saxons were deeply troubled by the Viking incursions which began in the north towards the end of the eighth century. Among their responses would surely have been a fear of 'foreign' tongues, and a later resistance to having to learn the vocabulary and constructions of outsiders. Yet many new words and structures were absorbed, just as the outsiders, whether Viking or Norman French, assimilated much of the language already used by the occupants of the country they had overrun or settled.
With hindsight we can see what those who lived through each upheaval could not see, that each fresh wave of arrivals has helped to develop the English language as it is today. Similarly, the language will develop in the future in ways that cannot be foreseen, let alone controlled. It will change both internally, as it were, among native speakers, and externally at the hands of the millions in Asia and elsewhere who are already adopting it for their own use.
ここでは言語的純粋性 (linguistic purity; purism) についても触れられているが，いったい正統な英語というものは，単数形で表現される English というものは，存在するのだろうか．存在するとすれば，具体的に何を指すのだろうか．あるいは，存在しないとすれば，「英語」とは諸変種の集合体につけられた抽象的な名前にすぎず，意味上は Englishes に相当する集合名詞に等しいのだろうか．
これは英語の現在と未来を論じるにあたって，実にエキサイティングな論題である．「#2986. 世界における英語使用のジレンマ」 ([2017-06-30-1]) の問題と合わせて，ディスカッション用に．
・ Gooden, Philip. The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World. London: Quercus, 2009.
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