Reply 200 of 222, by MrFlibble
Jo22 wrote on 2021-08-19, 08:51:
Apparently, in the US, during lock-down the children watched a British cartoon show much more often than it is good for them. 😉
I remember that story.
It actually has some interesting and partially unexplored (yet) implications.
Basically, for the entire human history before the 20th century, languages and dialects diverged continuously because no means of instant long-distance communication existed. Since language is always in a state of flux, and the changes are not predetermined, once you cut regular contact between parts of a speaking population, they will diverge inevitably -- first on a small scale, then eventually up to a point where they could become mutually unintelligible (but that would take hundreds of years of course, or at least some very critical changes in the way people live).
In the more recent centuries, but before the invention of the radio and such, compulsory mass education and established standards of literary language ensured a degree of consistency in language use across relatively large populations. These were centralised and controlled, but also limited to only come spheres of social interaction.
Now we have instant communication and theoretically, that could allow to maintain greater consistency over large populations of speakers worldwide. For example, American and British English, or all varieties of English that regularly come into contact, could begin converging back into something more homogeneous. On the other hand, it is equally possible that differences will remain, but certain changes will spread in unpredictable directions thanks to online communication and media, as opposed to being largely restricted to closely-knit populations.
Concerning English, of course there's also the fact that it's being used on a daily basis by lots of non-first-language speakers too, including many highly competent speakers. This presence looks significant enough to theoretically be able to kickstart some changes that could penetrate first-language speaker usage as well, and possible play some part in global convergence, although I cannot imagine what part exactly, at the moment.