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The Last Lingua Franca

English Until the Return of Babel

Nicholas Ostler

Walker Books

The Last Lingua Franca Download image

ISBN10: 0802717713
ISBN13: 9780802717719


352 Pages


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English is the world's lingua franca—the most widely spoken language in human history. And yet, as historian and linguist Nicholas Ostler persuasively argues, English will not only be displaced as the world's language in the not-distant future, it will be the last lingua franca.

Greek, Latin, Arabic have all held the position of lingua franca, and Ostler explores each through the lens of civilizations spanning the globe and history, from China and India to Russia and Europe, isolating three trends that suggest the ultimate decline of English and other lingua francas. The rising wealth of Brazil, Russia, India, and China will challenge the dominance of native-English-speaking nations, thereby shrinking the international preference for English. Simultaneously, new technologies will allow instant translation among major languages, enhancing the status of mother tongues and lessening the necessity for any future lingua franca.

Ostler predicts a soft landing for English: It will still be widely spoken, if no longer worldwide, sustained by America's continued power on the world stage. But its decline will be both symbolic and significant, evidence of grand shifts in the cultural effects of empire.


Praise for The Last Lingua Franca

"A bracing history of lingua francas and their dynamic variation, with a focus on the perfect wave that International English is riding—toward a wipeout . . . His aim is not pedantic but to pique general readers' code-cracking interest."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Nicholas Ostler

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin and Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (, a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to know and use their languages more. A scholar with a working knowledge of eighteen languages, Ostler lives in Bath, England.