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I am curious about the future, and the English language. Could English turn into a family of languages, like American, British, and Indian which are related? This happened with Romance languages, and I think it could happen again.

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    Maybe it already happened, and the languages just have high mutual intelligibility Apr 15, 2020 at 20:00
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    Scots is pretty widely (though by no means universally) regarded as a separate language descended from Middle English, so if you agree with that it already has happened.
    – Cairnarvon
    Apr 15, 2020 at 21:28
  • I agree: there is a family: the Englic languages. They are Main British, American, Scots (possibly), and Indian. I'm going to add a new mutually intelligible branch to the Englic language family. Apr 16, 2020 at 13:41
  • But if the trend continues of increasing communication among the dialects, they are more likely to converge than to diverge. Apr 20, 2020 at 7:11

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Sure, it's entirely possible. There are already quite a lot of different dialects of English, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. And you can certainly draw a family tree of them and their relationships.

The thing is, the difference between a language family and a set of dialects is more of a political issue than a linguistic one. Linguistically, there's no reason why Serbian and Croatian have to be distinct "languages" while Mandarin and Cantonese are "dialects"; it comes down to political identity.

Right now, English, Irish English, American English, Australian English, Indian English, and so on are all fundamentally considered English for historical and political reasons. This could change in the future; perhaps the United States will want to cement its national identity by replacing "American English" with pure "American" and coming up with a new orthography. But if it does, it'll be up to the politicians more than the linguists.

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  • ... but up to the people more than the politicians. A political or legal edict wouldn't change the linguistic facts unless / until it was adopted by speakers.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16, 2020 at 16:01
  • @rchivers Linguistically, though, Serbian and Croatian are much more similar than Mandarin and Cantonese. The reason why Serbian and Croatian are different languages and Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects of Chinese is because the governments classify them that way, not because of any linguistic fact.
    – Draconis
    Apr 16, 2020 at 17:23
  • Can't agree with you there, and I don't think the example of Serbia and Croatia has much to do with your original example. In the original example, a different orthography would be a reason for classifying American as a separate language, but the point is that legislating for a different orthography doesn't actually change the orthography unless / until people fall in line. You'll be aware of the attempts made by various governments to keep anglicisms / Americanisms at bay, and how well they've fared - with that in mind you can't take it for granted that your legislation would be obeyed.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16, 2020 at 19:57
  • The point about Serbia and Croatia is that the fact that a government may classify them as separate languages doesn't make it so, any more than the fact that the Chinese government classifies Mandarin and Cantonese as the same language makes that so.
    – rchivers
    Apr 16, 2020 at 19:58

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