Brexit could lead to the development of a new form of the English language, according to a new academic paper.
Dr Marko Modiano, of Gavle University in Sweden, said there were already signs that “Euro-English” was developing its own distinct way of speaking.
And this could eventually be codified in a dictionary and taught in schools in much the same way that American or Australian English is today if English is retained as the lingua franca of the European Union after the UK leaves.
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The Europeans might also decide to adopt American spellings, Dr Modiano said, which would add about 443 million to the total population using that system.
Euro-English has already developed its own new definitions for some words based on the “Eurospeak” deployed in Brussels.
For example, “eventual” is now used as “a synonym for possible or possibly”, Dr Modiano wrote in the journal World Englishes.
“Subsidiarity” has come to mean “the principle that legal decrees should be enacted as close to people as possible”; “Berlaymont” means “bureaucracy”, “conditionality” means “conditions”; and “semester” is “used to mean six months”.
“The use of eventual as a synonym for possible or possibly is actually showing signs of being accepted and may, in the near future, be considered a feature of Euro-English,” Dr Modiano said.
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Outside of Brussels, people are also developing their own English-language sayings.
“For example, phrases such as ‘to hop over’ (to refrain from doing something), to be blue-eyed (to be naıve) and to salt (to overcharge) are readily found among the usage of people in the Nordic countries,” Dr Modiano said.
Grammar is also changing.
For example, “I am coming from Spain” can be used to mean “I come from Spain” as part of an expansion of the use of -ing forms of verbs.
And “we were five people at the party” means the same as “there were five people at the party”.
“In my observations, continental Europeans speaking English as a [second language] readily use this construction, we were, instead of there were, and seem comfortable with its use and meaning,” Dr Modiano said.
He argued that English was likely to remain as the EU lingua franca despite suggestions it should be ditched with no member state having its as their official language. Ireland chose Irish and Malta chose Maltese despite widespread use of English in both countries.
The EU would have only about five million native speakers of English after Brexit, representing about 1 per cent of population.
While politicians on the left and right in France has seen Brexit as a chance to reinforce the global status of French, other countries would be reluctant to switch to French as their main second language, given the widespread use of English on the world stage and their investment in teaching it.
leftCreated with Sketch.rightCreated with Sketch.
European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier
French President Emmanuel Macron
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond
After the first and second appointed Brexit secretaries resigned (David Davis and Dominic Raab respectively), Stephen Barclay is currently heading up the position
But without native English speakers from the UK to police its linguist rules, Euro-English could develop a life of its own.
“When taking on the role of language guardian, and to some respect being given that role by continental European language specialists, the British met little resistance because of their considerable numbers, their heritage as the founders of the language, as well as the very fact that they are [first language] users of English,” Dr Modiano wrote.
“In this capacity, they have been successful in establishing the understanding that their version of the language, standardised British English with RP pronunciation, is the more esteemed form of the English language across the globe.
“With the British gone, no one will be there to carry on the work of defending the structural integrity of British English in the face of competition from not only American English, but also from [second language] users who increasingly utilise features indicative of discoursal nativisation which are in the processes of becoming systematic across continental Europe.”
He said Europeans “may well debate the pros and cons” of American and English spellings “without being influenced by ‘native speakers’ of either variety”.
“It is conceivable that the American-English spelling system may be deemed more utilitarian. That some 70 per cent of ‘native speakers’ use this spelling convention, which dominates the Internet, further strengthens the argument to implement it for Europe as well,” Dr Modiano said.
Euro-English could help provide its users with a “sense of identity” among other benefits which were “both logical and welcome”.
“In the act of recognising the validity of Euro-English,” Dr Modiano wrote, “one liberates continental European [second language] users of English from the tyranny of standard language ideology.”