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October 2001 Issue
The Geographical Review
October 2001, Vol. 91 (4), pp. 675-689
English as International Language in Geogrpahy: Development and Limitations
Chauncy D. Harris
Keywords: English language, geographical publications, global languages, International
Geographical Congresses, international languages.
The rise and spread of English as a language of international communication is discussed through an analysis of two bodies of data: languages used in twenty-nine International Geographical Congresses (1871-2000); and utilization of supplementary abstracts or text in international languages in geographical periodicals and serials, from initial use of English in 1882 to widespread use of it in 2002. Five stages in the use of English are recognized: 1) no use of English; 2) provision of abstracts in English; 3) occasional inclusion of articles in English; 4) publication of special issues in English, particularly for international meetings; and 5) a shift to English as the basic language of the text. English provides a window into the geographical literature; but it is only a window, not the full panorama of the richly diverse geographical literature in the six main languages that have been used in International Geographical Congresses and in the fifty-five languages that have been used in geographical serials.