Over in the Blame Canada thread, Sam Stone makes passsing mention of a hypothetical alliance or merger of all the English-speaking peoples. I’d vaguely heard of such an idea before, but it had never tripped my interest meter. But sometimes just the right name can completely change the perception of something. Sam called this hypothetical organisation the Anglosphere… when I read that, it was like a lightning flash.
If I understand the idea, the Anglosphere would include those lands where English-speaking settler-colonies were established outside England… and survived.
The Anglosphere would not be the same as the former British Empire or the current Commonwealth, because it would not include those territories formerly ruled by the Brits, where English did not permanently take hold, such as, for example, India. (Yes, I know that English is still widely spoken in India, but my impression is that its use is on the decline there. If I’m wrong, please correct me.) So it would include England and the other nations of the UK, as well as Ireland, Canada, and Australia.
The Anglosphere would also include the USA, which broke away from the Old Empire and is not now in the Commonwealth.
I can think of only a few other language-communities that might support similar Spheres. First on my list are Spanish and Portuguese, what with their settler colonies in the Americas. Next might be French and Chinese because of their widespread use, though French settler colonies were taken over or ceded (Quebec, Lousisiana, Algeria?, Indochina?), and I’m not aware that China had settler colonies far outside its borders in modern times*.
Now, this Anglosphere raises all kinds of interesting questions:[ul][li]What territories would be in it?What bonds would join its members? Trade treaties? Cultural exchanges? Citizenship? What of non-English speakers within those territories and English-speakers outside it?How would this Anglosphere difer from a worldwide language-community with only one geographic territory of power, such as Icelandic?How would this Anglosphere difer from a worldwide language-community with no geographic territory of power, such as Esperanto or Kurdish?How likely would the formation of a formal Anglosphere be?How would the formation of an Anglosphere affect the current status of English as a worldwide entertainment, trade and technology language?[/ul]I feel a strange attraction to the idea of the Anglosphere, but there’s a little voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that it would somehow be a dead end. [/li]
The challenge these days seems to be how to deal with linguistic and cultural diversity, and ultimately how to forge unity out of them.
Continental Europe seems to be in the midst of that struggle now. If the UK dropped out of the affairs of the European mainland, and turned towards its English-speaking relatives, it would definitely be taking the easier path, but it would lose its influence on the mainland and probably elsewhere.
In other parts of the world, the same struggle goes on. Here in Toronto we live it every day: somehow we have to build a working city out of people of a hundred languages and cultures.
Even if an Anglosphere formed, perhaps alongside competing language-Spheres, we would still have to deal with the issues of communication and diplomacy among languages and cultures.
In the larger scheme of things, I fear that the formation of an Anglosphere as any sort of political entity would usher in an era of ‘linguistic separation’, as other linguistic spheres formed in reaction, and boundaries hardened. People would again be forced to choose sides, and the great twentieth-century experiment of multicultural tolerance, always vulnerable, would come to an end.
As an example, the formation of an Anglosphere would, IMHO, force the UK to a point of decision: whether to be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of a politically-unified Europe**. That is to say, whether to restrict itself to the English world, or open itself to the rest of the world as well. I suspect that this decision would choose what road the UK would follow for at least a generation.
Ultimately this worldwide linguistic separation would only delay the real work: how to live in a world where people of every culture are your neighbours, and you bloody well have to work out ways to get along with them… or, ultimately, die for want of trying.
Comments Questions? Flames?
Let the debate begin.
[sub]*And I hope that weaseling gets around the issue of Tibet, which it is not my intention to debate in this thread.
**With the arrival of the euro, this is already a hot debate. [/sub]