Anthea Fraser Gupta (University of Leeds), 'The Internet and the English Language'
The dominant language of the Internet is English. The reasons for this are historical (its origins being in the US) and cultural (the pattern of access to the technology, and the difficulties of transmitting data not in ASCII). The socio-geographical pattern of empowerment has been complex. Access to the technology is a function of wealth, at an individual and institutional rather than at a national level, and of access to appropriate communications technology (a national and regional pattern). Also at a national level, some countries attempt to control access for political reasons.
The dominance of English empowers those with English skills, thus advantaging those from places where English is the principal native langauge (e.g. the US, the UK, Australia). However, countries which were formerly UK or US colonies are also advantaged by the near-universal high-level knowledge in English among those within them who do have access to the technology (e.g. India, Singapore, Malaysia). Other countries where English is widely learnt to a high degree by many in the population (e.g. Finland) also have an edge in access. This contrasts with countries such as France (where the early acceptance of Minitel has presented a technological and cultural obstacle too) and Japan, where English is less widely known.
The socio-political implications of the geographical and cultural pattern of internet advantage are explored and the effects on the cultures of Asia and of Europe are discussed.
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