I think that the deliberate marginalisation and destruction of indigenous languages by colonisers (like the English) was a far greater sin than any tweaking of the colonisers' language by the colonised people.
You may be saddened by Webster's reformulation of American-English spelling...I am more saddened that by 1900, almost no-one in Ireland could speak Irish (Gaelic)...the culmination of a process of cultural and economic attrition which began with the Plantations and the Penal Laws imposed from London in the 17th century.
When you think about it - "to destroy a language in order to mark a feeling of self" - was that not exactly what the British authorities were repeatedly doing as well, as they built their "empire on which the sun never sets"? Linguistic hegemony was central to their sense of imperial self-justification. If one could get the wogs, fuzzy-wuzzies, chinks, pakis, abos, micks and coons to speak the King's/Queen's English, instead of their own barbaric tongue, one was just doing them a favour, right?
Not blaming you Rob, or any other present-day British people, for any of this of course...it's ancient history and attitudes are completely different now. It just needs to be remembered.
And now, back to photography!
Well, it’s impossible to come to any single conclusion about empire other than to remark that every single one fades away.
But, on the practicalities, if you are going to have one, then a single, common denominator of language is essential if there is to be understanding. It’s worth noting that in India (Pakistan didn’t exist until 1947) the main language that aids higher employment and foreign business is still English; nobody expects the world to become fluent in Tamil, Urdu, Hind, Telegu nor any of the other hundreds of local idioms.
So yes, in a sense, the legacy of English language, not to mention English education and Law has been invaluable to the newly independent countries, providing a base from which they can exist and even, with luck, grow within this brave new world they all have to face. Those that have turned inwards - well, look at what was Rhodesia, N&S, for one.
Gaelic? I have lived in Scotland about half my life, and I never yet ran into anyone speaking that language for real. Some rural ‘tourist’ towns have introduced the double-naming of streets in order to add to the tourist ‘oferta’ as they would say in Spain, but for many/most (I haven’t counted) it is a stupid business that raises local council expense and achieves nothing. Kilts? Are you joking? They are
the national joke except at some weddings. There are even local TV stations that employ, were set up to provide, this expensive isolationist doctrine. The same splinter mentality lies behind much of the political problems of Spain. There was a period a year or so ago, here on Mallorca, where non-Catalan speaking doctors from the mainland of Spain were unable to hold employoment unless they were able to abandon the national language of Castilian and actually work using Catalan! Is that madness, or what? If I get another heart attack I hope the medical staff speak medical, not some prescribed version of localised Spanish, especially as they all speak the national tongue anyway.
Some of the Welsh, as with the Irish and Scots have the same problem of seeking an ‘identity’ different or separate from the national; why? None of that serves to do anything but isolate in a world that, in reality, needs closer integration and common understanding not only of language but of hopes and religion if it is to survive.
From where I stand, any language that becomes the only language is no bad thing. Speech is supposed to be about communication: when we can all communicate with one another without confusion, then we will be that tiny step closer to avoiding trouble. Struggle with a foreign language may amuse on holiday, not so when you live there. Then, it’s more about closed doors than loving thy neighbour in a golden glow of imaginary, sunny beach bliss.
But as for destroying a language that is already spoken and perfectly understood, as Mr Webster apparently felt obliged to do, that is another thing altogether and has more to do with ego than rationality.