Quick question about the Northern Cities Vowel Shift and future Englishes— it seems to me an awfully regional shift to be incorporated broadly into subsequent daughter languages or dialects of English. When I look back at other sound changes in English, like the Great Vowel Shift, their success seems to be predicated partly on the more regionally restricted nature of English before British colonialism really took off— not to mention the fact that nowadays English seems to have more than one prestige dialect (American English might be argued to enjoy a little more prestige that British English globally, but American English is hardly monolithic).

I could easily see in a civilization like the Incatena, where you have a new central focus of political and cultural influence being established (Mars) whose standard language is not necessarily the mother tongue of many people who speak it (cf. the number of people in India or Africa who speak English as a second language), various dialects contributing to the formation of a new standard. Obviously some will have outsize influence, based on population and cultural influence, but it doesn’t seem to follow that a regional shift like the Northern Cities Vowel Shift would come to dominate.

Just curious if you followed a different line of reasoning on this.


It’s pretty simple, really: designing a future English, rather than simply make up the first step, it makes more sense to use a sound change that’s actually in progress, though it’s currently below public perception. 

For the “regional” objection, two points.  First, what’s the alternative, given that I want to use a real sound change?  I don’t think there’s any sound change of similar phonetic importance that is more geographically widespread.

Second, if anything is going to affect near-future American English, the Northeast US is probably about the best place for it to start.  It’s already the core of General American, and other US dialects (New England, New York, the South) have historically been stigmatized and not spread outside their regions. 

A better objection might be that it’s highly urban, and doesn’t seem to have spread to the suburbs and thence to the media.  But Labov says that typically sound changes spread from the working class upward and downward, so again this is just what we’d expect for the origins of a major change.  It’s true that not all changes keep spreading; but this is sf, not physics.  I wouldn’t bet a lot on the NCVS not spreading; but I wouldn’t be surprised if it stopped, either.

Now, I said Stennud was “50C Earth English”, but this is taking a broad interstellar view.  To be more precise, I’m going to say that UK and American English will no longer be mutually intelligible, and Stennud is the descendant of the latter.  It’s likely to be more of a world standard simply because North America is a much much larger clot of English speakers.

This could change if India actually switched to English.  I don’t think this is likely, and it’s even less so in the Incatena timeline.  Currently there’s something like 86 million Indians who speak English as a first or second language; compare that to 520 million for Hindi.  In the Incatena future, Dravidian India splits off (which removes a significant barrier to the further spread of Hindi), and the Collapse reduces American influence worldwide. 

Recall that interstellar travel is expensive and time-consuming; the vast majority of people never leave their home system.  Thus planets tend to diverge linguistically; there is no “Incatenese”.  Interstellar travelers tend to use either Hanying, the major language of Mars, or Sihorian Franca.  Stennud is not that big a deal off Earth.