Languages in the melting pot

How do speakers of a language go about when they need a name for a new thing or phenomenon, that is, a new entity? The question has always been of practical interest and even of importance for relations be­tween speakers of different languages and varieties of languages. To take an example, a notion of 'practising trade' was called in olden times "kaupōn" in a Germanic language called Gothic. Apparently, the notion was new to neighbouring Finnish tribes, since they borrowed the word from the Goths. In modern Finnish it occurs in the form of "kauppa" meaning 'trade, shop, purchase', whereas in modern Swedish the same word appears as "köpa" 'buy'.1 
       Like any other people, Finnish tribes borrowed words extensively from other languages, especially from neighbouring Baltic, Germanic and Slavic languages. At least a third of the modern Finnish root words derive from lexical items adopted from other languages. Often, changes in the phonetic shape of the words have made it difficult to recognize words as being derived from the same source, cf. "kauppa" and "köpa" above, or the Finnish noun "vuokra" 'rent' which is related to the Swedish word "ocker" 'usury', when the Germanic source form was "wōkra".
Adopting words from other languages is not the only way people have used to find designations to new entities. People have also translated the foreign name of the entities directly. These cases are called loan translations. An example is the Finnish compound "puutarha" 'garden', lit. 'tree yard', which is a word by word translation of the Swedish "trädgård" 'garden', lit. 'tree yard'.
In some cases, people have widened the meaning of words that already exist in their language. When gas as an energy source was intro­duced in Finland, "kaasu", a dialectal word for 'fog', was chosen as an equivalent designation of "gas". More rarely, people have come up with totally new words. This is called "Urschöpfung" in German or "primary creation" in English. A modern example is the word "googol" which means 'the number one followed by one hundred zeros, 10100', the mis­spelling of which we find in the word "google".
The need to find terms to new entities has grown enormously in our time. This is primarily due to the technological development producing ever more new things, and to the ease with which we can establish relations across the world with people of different cultures and languages.
One might think that when searching for an appropriate term for a given new entity, we would prefer using lexical resources of our own language to lexical items of other languages, but this is not necessarily the case. Certain types of Swedish texts bristle with Anglo-American lexical newcomers. In Swedish computer ads, one can meet phrases like "Vissa Mac-datorer har en SD- (Secure Digital) eller SDXC- (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) kortplats" which translates as "Some Mac-computers have a SD (Secure Digital) or SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) slot". This phrase is not very hard to understand for a computer geek with just a poor command of the Swedish language. Note that in the example, "slot" has been translated with the genuinely Swedish compound "kort­plats", lit. "cardplace". So, at times Swedes do not borrow computer terms from English straight away but have equivalents of their own.
In the modern world, English with its many varieties dominates the global mass communication. As a consequence, English exerts enormous lexical pressure on other languages. When new things or new phenomena appear, they are often named in English, in the first place. This has led to different kinds of reactions. In Sweden, we have an organization called "Språkförsvaret" or "The Language Defence". Språkförsvaret operates actively against the use of English at occasions where the more natural choice should be Swedish and against excessive use of English loan words in public texts. The general premise of this assiduous work is that the genuineness of the Swedish language hinges to a great extent on the lexical usage. Both the official Swedish language board (Språkrådet 'Language Council') and Språkförsvaret aim at maintaining the linguistic identity of Swedish as intact as possible while keeping the language flexible enough to meet the lexical challenges posed by the global mass communication, in general, and by English in particular.
But why should people feel that other languages threaten their language, lexically or otherwise? A simple answer is that foreign elements such as loan words are thought to weaken the primacy of the mother tongue. Many of us identify ourselves with our native language. Previous­ly, the dominant attitude to a mother tongue was that people should acknowledge it and closely follow its norms, especially if used in public. Conceptually, this was reflected in the German terms "Sprachrichtigkeit" ('Linguistic correctness') and "Rechtschreibung" ('Correct spelling'). These ideas were and in many places still are widely supported and advocated by authorities, school teachers and others.
   Times have changed, and nowadays, we rather speak of "Sprachpflege". lit. "language care", that is, cultivating guidance on language usage. Still, the norms are there, and those who give us guidance in language usage turn to them when explaining why certain forms, words or formulations are pre­ferable to others. Moreover, many people still find the language norms of their mother tongue important to follow, possibly, because they strongly identify themselves as users of the language.
On the other hand, it is also true that people's attitudes differ. Some of us would like to preserve their mother tongue as intact as possible from foreign influence, while other people are positive to such influences.
There have always been negative attitudes to foreign languages and their influence on one's own language. This is evidenced by the fact that languages that sound different or are more or less unintelligible have been called "broken". In Finnish, "dialect" translates as "murre" which comes from the verb "murtaa", 'break'. That is, language varieties that differ from one's own variety break against what is taken for "normal". In ancient Greek, non-Greek people were "barbarians" who were babbling in an in­comprehensible gibberish. In Russia, speakers of German who did not know Russian, were nemtsy, a word derived from nemoj 'mute, speechless'. It seems that people have always had negative, condescending or outright spiteful attitudes to other languages and their speakers. Presumably, they have done so in order to strengthen the intragroup solidarity. Obviously, languages often constitute a vital part of what makes people's social identi­ty, and if it is threatened, people do react. This is part of the raison d'être of organizations such as Språkförsvaret . 
The diverse linguistic identities are threatened in the modern world. One of the reasons is that English has become the predominant means of wider communication and one of the main providers of words for new entities. This can be fatal to the languages whose speakers lack prerequi­sites to respond adequately to the challenge posed by the so-called big languages and by English, especially.
The language attrition and the language death is a present global trend. It will concern primarily languages that have few native speakers, lack a written standard and are not used on the Internet. These languages make the majority of the tongues now spoken in the world. There are approximately 6 900 different languages, but only 304 are spoken by more than one million. Only 2 287 languages have a written standard, and the whole Bible has been translated into as few as 392 languages. Fairly few are used on the Internet. It is to be expected that these languages will not keep up with the technological development and the post-industrial way of life reflected in the semantic differentiation of the vocabulary. The languages concerned will gradually lose ever more range of use and finally be without much active usage. They will become what in Finnish is called "kyökkikieli" or "a destitute kitchen language", that is, a second rate language.
Panta hrei - everything flows
As Herakleitos ho Efesios (535 - 475 BCE) said (in Greek): "No man ever steps in the same river twice", i.e. everything will change. This will concern languages as well as identities connected to them. IT, global trade, ease of travelling etc. notwithstanding, I do think that a planetary linguistic identity represented by one world language will never materialize. Even though the knowledge of English will be even more widespread than it is now, the majority of the world's population will never become second language speakers let alone native speakers of the language. Instead better translation appliances will be developed and general multilingualism will be preserved for the languages that are vigorous enough to survive. Hope­fully, as many languages as possible will do that, thrive in the world's language pot without melting and losing their genuine identity. Cultural and linguistic multitude should be cherished. In the last analysis, vive la différence! 
The U.S. melting pot
1 One may note that Swedish belongs to the Germanic languages while Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language fairly closely related to Estonian.

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