Synopses & Reviews
In early 2012, the global scientific community erupted with news that the elusive Higgs boson had likely been found, providing potent validation for the Standard Model of how the universe works. Scientists from more than one hundred countries contributed to this discoveryandmdash;proving, beyond any doubt, that a new era in science had arrived, an era of multinationalism and cooperative reach. Globalization, the Internet, and digital technology all play a role in making this new era possible, but something more fundamental is also at work. In all scientific endeavors lies the ancient drive for sharing ideas and knowledge, and now this can be accomplished in a single tongueandmdash; English. But is this a good thing?
In Does Science Need a Global Language?, Scott L. Montgomery seeks to answer this question by investigating the phenomenon of global English in science, how and why it came about, the forms in which it appears, what advantages and disadvantages it brings, and what its future might be. He also examines the consequences of a global tongue, considering especially emerging and developing nations, where research is still at a relatively early stage and English is not yet firmly established.
Throughout the book, he includes important insights from a broad range of perspectives in linguistics, history, education, geopolitics, and more. Each chapter includes striking and revealing anecdotes from the front-line experiences of todayandrsquo;s scientists, some of whom have struggled with the reality of global scientific English. He explores topics such as student mobility, publication trends, world Englishes, language endangerment, and second language learning, among many others. What he uncovers will challenge readers to rethink their assumptions about the direction of contemporary science, as well as its future.and#160;
"It may seem obvious that English is the one truly global language, but Scott Montgomery, himself a professional translator, is the first to assess the costs and benefits of this fact with such clarity." Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick
"As a writer and translator of scientific texts, Scott L. Montgomery has had a front-row seat to an extraordinary development: the rapid ascent of English as the lingua franca ofand#160;science."
andquot;An intelligent and learned book. . . . In linking linguistic developments and changes to individualsandrsquo; life stories and [Scott Montgomery's] own experience, he communicates that the personal and political are interconnected and that the production of knowledge is part of historical, political processes and shifts in power, often played out in the daily tragedies, failures and fragilities of andlsquo;real peopleandrsquo;. This is not a naive or triumphant book about English as a global force. It is a book written by a modernist, a and#160;believer in science as a joint, progressive human project. For this purpose as well as for its sheer learnedness and elegance of expression, it is well worth a read.andquot;
"In this interesting, entertaining, and highly informative read, Scott L. Montgomery teases apart various expected and several unanticipated considerations in determining whether science needs a global language. . . . It is without a doubt a meaningful read for scientists, science educators and researchers, and particularly those interested in science within the context of language and history."
"Because both educators and researchers at all levels encounter increasing levels of globalization, this book is highly recommended for all." Journal of Chemical Education
"Montgomery gives an informative and even-handed account of the state of play, enlivened by anecdotes about professional encounters with non-native English-speaking scientists, and makes thoughtful suggestions as to what this implies for scientific education and publishing."
"Montgomery makes a convincing case, and he does it with an engaging style." Steven Breckler
"For centuries, scholars have written of their desire to read the Book of Nature, even as they composed their own books in a gaggle of tongues. Today, however, scientists share their work in just one: English. That unprecedented linguistic winnowing--driven as much by utopian dreams as by the shattering disruptions of war--reveals far-ranging changes in how, where, why, and by whom science has been done. Fascinating."
andquot;Massive, erudite, and engaging.andquot;
andquot;Perceptive. . . . Gordinand#39;s scholarly assessment of these matters will not have Hollywood entrepreneurs scrambling for movie rights. But it is insightfully and engagingly written, a masterful mix of intelligence and style. He illuminates an important side of science with academic rigor, but without a trace of academic obfuscation. Itand#39;s a very pleasant example of the skillful use of language.andquot;
English is the language of science today. No matter which languages you know, if you want your work seen, studied, and cited, you need to publish in English. But that hasnand#8217;t always been the case. Though there was a time when Latin dominated the field, for centuries science has been a polyglot enterprise, conducted in a number of languages whose importance waxed and waned over timeand#151;until the rise of English in the twentieth century.
So how did we get from there to here? How did French, German, Latin, Russian, and even Esperanto give way to English? And what can we reconstruct of the experience of doing science in the polyglot past? With Scientific Babel, Michael D. Gordin resurrects that lost world, in part through an ingenious mechanism: the pages of his highly readable narrative account teem with footnotesand#151;not offering background information, but presenting quoted material in its original language. The result is stunning: as we read about the rise and fall of languages, driven by politics, war, economics, and institutions, we actually see it happen in the ever-changing web of multilingual examples. The history of science, and of English as its dominant language, comes to life, and brings with it a new understanding not only of the frictions generated by a scientific community that spoke in many often mutually unintelligible voices, but also of the possibilities of the polyglot, and the losses that the dominance of English entails.
Few historians of science write as well as Gordin, and Scientific Babel reveals his incredible command of the literature, language, and intellectual essence of science past and present. No reader who takes this linguistic journey with him will be disappointed.
About the Author
Scott L. Montgomery is a consulting geologist and independent scholar, and the author of The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science and Science in Translation, both published by the University of Chicago Press.David Crystal is a writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on language and linguistics. He published the first of his 100 or so books in 1964. He received an OBE for services to the English language in 1995, and was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Talking Science
Chapter 1: The Perfect Past That Almost Was
Chapter 2: The Table and the Word
Chapter 3: Hydrogen Oxygenovich
Chapter 4: Speaking Utopian
Chapter 5: The Wizards of Ido
Chapter 6: The Linguistic Shadow of the Great War
Chapter 7: Unspeakable
Chapter 8: The Dostoevsky Machine
Chapter 9: All the Russian Thatand#8217;s Fit to Print
Chapter 10: The Fe Curtain
Chapter 11: Anglophonia
Conclusion: Babel Beyond
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