Science has historically been a multilingual enterprise, yet the present day appears to belie this generalization. It is difficult to deny the observation that the natural sciences today have converged to a state where a particular form of English-variously termed “Global English,” “International English,” or “English as a Lingua Franca”- serves as the almost universal language of interaction among scientific practitioners. The history of science demonstrates that many other languages have served (and, in many contexts, still do) for scientific and scholarly interchange. The unusual feature about the past several decades is not that the dominant language of the natural sciences is English (as opposed to, say, German or Russian or Chinese) but that it is a single language. This Focus section seeks to open up avenues of inquiry that would put both the past and the present of science into conversation, along this axis of translation and hegemonic languages. In addition to outlining the contributions-which explore the cases of Arabic, Chinese, Latin, French, and Russian over a millennium-this introduction addresses the charged question of English.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- History and Philosophy of Science