H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
more than tripled its users, and French barely doubled them. Perhaps all of the figures in the table are excessive; that is almost certainly true of German, and probably also true of English and French. The same authority, in 1921, modified them as follows:
I am inclined to think that the German estimate is still far too high; probably even Hickmanns 90,000,000 is too liberal. The number of Germans in Germany is about 60,000,000, and in German Austria not more than 6,000,000 or 7,000,000. Add the German-speaking inhabitants of Holstein, Alsace-Lorraine, the lost portions of Silesia and the Dantzig territory: perhaps 3,000,000 more. Then the German-speaking peoples of the Baltic region, of Transylvania and of Russia: at most, 2,000,000. Then the German-speaking colonists in North and South America: 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 more. Altogether, I put the number of living users of German at less than 75,000,000, which is probably no more than half of the number of living users of English. Japanese, I daresay, should follow French: it is spoken by at least 60,000,000 persons. But it seems to be making very little progress, and its difficulties put it out of consideration as a world language. Chinese, too, may be disregarded, for though it is spoken by more than 300,000,000 persons, it is split into half a dozen mutually unintelligible dialects, and shows no sign of spreading beyond the limits of China; in fact, it is yielding to other languages along the borders, especially to English in the seaports. The same may be said of Hindustani, which is the language of 100,000,000 inhabitants of British India; it shows wide dialectical variations and the people who speak it are not likely to spread. But English is the possession of a race that is still pushing in all directions, and wherever that race settles the existing languages tend to succumb. Thus French, despite the passionate resistance