This post is inspired by the Telegraph’s article which, based on linguists’ predictions, prepares the readers for the extinction of the ‘th’ sound from English by 2066. Such predictions very often attract people’s attention irrespective of their interest in or familiarity with the field of linguistics. And while reading about something that may or may not happen in the future is intriguing, it is at the same time a safe topic exactly because it refers to the future, and people, especially linguists and educators, are not confronted with the need to decipher what it may mean for their current decision-making in terms of using, teaching and researching language.
Language change, however, happens every day, especially nowadays when English is mostly used by and among people for whom it is not the first language. English is thus used as an international language, or a Lingua Franca. In short, English is now used as a means to communicate effectively and not as a means to demonstrate knowledge of and adherence to the norms of Standard English. In Seidlhofer’s words, English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) refers to ‘‘any use of English among speakers of different first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice, and often the only option’’ (Seidlhofer, 2011, p.7).