Lingua Franca

Michael Rosen embarks on the long and winding linguistic road through the roots of European language.


01Spqr And Pie2007031920070507

Sanskrit, Welsh, Iranian and Norwegian, not to mention English, French and German all share a common linguistic ancestry, being descendants of a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European root (PIE).

And how influential were the Romans?

02From Amish To Wood Frisian2007032020070508

The Germanic family of languages counts over 550 million native speakers, and includes English, Faroese, Afrikaans, Dutch and, of course, German.

The Germanic family of languages counts over 550 million native speakers, from Australia (English) to the Faroe Islands (Faroese), to South Africa (Afrikaans) to Holland and, of course, Germany.

03The Romance Of Romance2007032120070509

In Catalan and French, Jersey dialect and Lombard, it's or; in Italian and Spanish, oro; and Romanians and Occitanians say aur.

Michael goes panning for gold along the Romance language road.

For gold, along the Romance language road, in Catalan and French, Jersey dialect and Lombard, it's or; in Italian and Spanish, oro; while Romanians and Occitanians say aur.

04Marche Slave2007032220070510

From vampires to vodka: 1,900 years ago, the Slavic family of languages spread west, probably originally from the Ukraine, to cover much of central Europe.

05The Song Of The Celt2007051420070910

The Celtic languages of Europe once stretched as far east as Turkey and as far south as Spain.

So why today are Celtic tongues only widely spoken in Ireland, Wales, Brittany and Scotland?

06Splendid Isolation2007051520070911

Many Europeans find being in Budapest, Helsinki, or even Bilbao disorientating.

Nothing makes sense.

Why? The so-called Finno-Ugric and the utterly unique Basque languages are under the microscope.

07Frontiers Of The Tongue2007051620070912

What happens when two very different language families rub up against each other? Is it a case of oil and water, or do they merge happily into a new hybrid linguistic brew? Luxembourg, Brussels and Strasbourg all have different stories to tell.

08Last Chance To Hear2007051720070913

The death of languages is rarely reported, yet Europe is littered with language corpses.

What causes languages to cease to exist? Are ancient dialects seriously threatened? And should we be marching to save Swedish?

09Lost Your Tongue?20071105

Punjabi, Sylheti, Vietnamese, Hausa and many others have travelled to Europe with their native speakers, yet immediately find themselves surrounded by English, French, German, Dutch and the rest.

So what does it take for a non-native language to survive, flourish or simply die?

10He's My Spar20071106

In recent years, many elements of, for example, Caribbean creoles have begun to spread widely into the broader population.

What effect has the arrival of these speakers had on native European languages?

11English Spoken Here20071107

With all-German academic conferences now being conducted exclusively in English, Michael Rosen explores the expanding world of non-native English speakers in Europe.

What dangers lurk both for indigenous European languages, and for the purity of English?

12Standards And Flags20071108

In his last essay about Europe and its languages, Michael Rosen explores the way standard British English is maintained, finds out about linguistic legislation, and asks whether there's a future for learning modern European languages in an English-dominated world.