Fry’s English Delight Series 3
Audio available until Thursday
Stephen Fry on the future of English.
As English continues to grow and spread, the influences of the places around the world where it has been adopted are being reimported. As Stephen puts it, "we exported brown Windsor soup and re-imported mulligatawny. We exported clogs - back came tap dancing". The McDonald's slogan "I'm Loving it" is an example. So is the youth-speak Jafaican.
This continual process means we can predict some changes in the way we use language. Dr David Crystal, a world authority, thinks the sound "th" might disappear. The very rhythms of our speech might change, and our vocabulary certainly will.
The other huge influence on the way English will change relates to technology. The programme features computer programmes that "read" text. They do this not just to show off. The London School of Economics employs a computer programme to read text in the service of research. So computers will, in some sense, join the swelling billions who use English.
But will they - can they - ever "understand" English well enough for them to read and understand a novel? Professor Margaret Boden, a leader in the field is doubtful. She and Microsoft search engineer Ron Kaplan discuss a test for computers, in the shape of this sentence: "Is the duck ready to eat?"
Nobody knows exactly how English will change, or whether we might, as time travellers, recognise it 200 years hence. But speculating about it is endless fun.
Producer: Nick Baker
A Testbed production for BBC Radio 4.
From BBC Radio 4 Website http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tjf52
They talk about Kilburn in the programme. I used to live in the area. I used to go to Kilburn High Road to buy food, and the school I attended, the College of North West London, was just off the main road.