Futuretalk: one small step towards a Chronolinguistics
In the area of linguistics and language teaching, science fiction is useful in very many ways. An obvious way is that it sets up many complex and rich worlds and outlines the sorts of adjustments that language must make in those contexts. It thus draws a strong link between language and context; it shows how the construction of reality is largely a matter of language; and it speculates on where we are linguistically heading. It is a useful mirror on language development.
Extrapolating the dialects of the future has been the province of science fiction in the last century. Though few SF writers are professional linguists, their method in general tends to take a holistic view of form, meaning and social context. Characters in science fiction are not individuals but are 'everyman' tokens, and the language they use symbolises the culture they inhabit. Linguistic extrapolation in science fiction thus treats language both as the technology of communication and as an index of social change.
In this paper, I argue that predicting the language of the future, though extremely difficult, is possible. I call this new discipline chronolinguistics, and I set out the draft principles and parameters of a chronolinguistics, based on the future languages speculated by John Brunner, Russell Hoban, William Gibson, Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson and Iain M.Banks.