Erinys wrote:Just to return things to topic: the popularity of Hanzi as a unifying language is based in part on the formation of a political entity called the Han Consortium in the 23rd century.
As one of the new collective states of the pre-Node era, the Han Consortium was by far the most heavily populated polity of the planet. It was multi-lingual and multi-cultural to an enormous degree, comprising most of eastern Asia and the still-viable portions of the Indian subcontinent, as well as a huge population of people whose homes and livelihoods were literally built on the water in the Indian Ocean, China Sea, and over the Drowned Lands of eastern and southeast Asia.
Hanzi was a useful administrative tool and was imposed by the politically and militarily powerful core in the Asian highlands. It allowed the officials of many population groups to communicate clearly and effectively via electronic channels. It was also taught in schools, promoted as an official literary and cultural heritage language for the state, and adopted by the general population for their own use in trade and entertainment--i.e., audiences in the floating cities of Japan would enjoy watching films shot in Hindi or Bengali or Tibetan with Hanzi subtitles, and vice versa.
The Han Consortium was one of the hardest hit during the First Contact bombardment of Earth. Major population centers were destroyed and millions were killed--millions more were rendered homeless and without resources. The remaining Consortia governments had to pull together for an enormous rescue and relief effort, and in the process millions of people were relocated to the Europa, Australarctic and Americas Consortia. Since Hanzi had already been taught as a second language for many decades in the majority of primary and secondary schools of these other Consortia, the displaced population were able to use their Hanzi skills to get along in ways that their native languages would not have served them. They could read and fill out forms, apply for services and receive aid using Hanzi, even in areas very far from their former homes.
Those who have read The Deacon's Tale will remember that the protagonist, Cai Rui, was orphaned in the aftermath of First Contact; his mother died in a refugee camp, after contracting pneumonia in the second winter after the attack. Our hero was originally from the Han Consortium, but was adopted by the Catholic Church and received most of his primary and secondary education in Europa, which is why he often thinks and programs his PDA in Latin. If he had been adopted by a branch living in the Americas Consortium, he would think, speak and write primarily in Spanish and English; if he had been been adopted by the African Consortium, he would speak and write Swahili and Arabic very fluently. If he had been taken to the Australarctic Consortium, his primary languages would be English and Malay. If he had remained Han, he would have learned to read, write, perform simple arithmetic and fill out all government forms in Hanzi, while speaking Mandarin at home with his mother and English when dealing with foreigners.
Hope this helps to clear things up somewhat. I sometimes think that people lose sight of the enormous political turmoil and reorganization which had taken place on Earth long before the Hivers showed up to kick over our sand castle.
The impression I get here is that the spread of Hanzi is analogous to the spread of English under the British Empire, although obviously to a lesser geographical extent. Would this be a fair analogy?