Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
 The Electronic Colonization of the Pacific, by Spennemann, Birckhead, Green, and Atkinson

Domination of the Web by English

The dominant language on the World Wide Web is English, specifically American English. With the exception of languages other than the main "competitors" of English (such as French, German or Spanish), little respect is paid to other languages. Even publishers in French, German, or Spanish on the Web strive to comply with the dominance of the English language by providing English-language abstracts or alternative English-language home pages.

The rise of English to preeminence in the academic world began in the post World War II period when the sheer number of U.S. American universities and the large amount of funding poured into them resulted in a large output of research and publications, thus documents written in English dominated and saturated the market. In a concurrent development, the dominance of the U.S. market economy saw English rise to preeminence in the area of business and communications. The Web combines the characteristics of both scientific publishing on the one hand and business and communications on the other--and thus reinforces the dominance of English, especially American English. This take-over of American culture also occurs in Australia, which may serve as a example that even large countries are not immune.

While some languages have a large number of speakers and territorially cohesive populations, such as German, French, Spanish, Russian and Japanese stand a good chance of survival in the electronic world; however, others, such as Marshallese or Pohnpeian (each with less than 100,000 speakers world wide) do not stand any chance at all. Even large languages, such as Mandarin and Hindi are not likely to be prominent on the Web, due to the heterogeneous nature of the countries and the number of "competitors," such as Urdu in the case of India, and Cantonese in the case of China.

The jury is still out on the future of languages reliant on no Latin characters and their display on the Web. Such languages include: Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese and Hindi, Urdu and Japanese. Even though the market for pages written in these languages is substantial, the current Web browsers used to view the HTML code need the addition of specific software to view such character sets. Such software is language-dependent and in a number of cases, has not been developed. --


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