O'Driscoll, Jim (2004) The discourse of English as T-Rex. In: Language and the future of Europe: ideologies, policies and practices, 8th - 10th July 2004, Universtiy of Southampton. (Unpublished)

There is a widespread perception, as evidenced by reactions to it among language professionals, institutions and the general public, that English is ‘taking over’ in continental Europe; that, quite apart from its pre-eminent role for international communication, it is invading the territories of other European languages, displacing them in settings of everyday local use. This paper questions this perception: is it true and, if so, does it matter? However, the two questions cannot be separated since the answer to the latter depends on what we take ‘it’ to be?

A survey of public promotional texts in several continental language-communities indicates that, in this domain at least, while emblems of English are ubiquitous, its use is fairly tightly bounded. Furthermore, an analysis of two Flemish TV adverts suggests that even when such texts are almost entirely in English, its pragmatic force presents (a none-too-flattering) otherness and is in any case specific to the local context (and therefore subject to a law of diminishing returns).

So where does the perception of English as T-Rex come from? A critical examination of writings which chronicle and comment on this supposed phenomenon reveals several aspects of ideology about the relation between language and culture, and also about the nature of language itself, which reinforce it. These need to be undermined, not only because of their possible self-fulfilling effect but also because they divert attention from the real dangers inherent in incipient English monolingualism.

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