How the Internet is changing the English language and the ways we speak
As a linguist and an ex-English teacher, the evolution of language has always fascinated me. Since the 15th century, the English language has evolved under the influence of technology but I would argue that this has been more in terms of style than structural changes to the language. The first big change came in the 15th century with the use of printing presses which introduced new standardised grammar, spelling and punctuation styles. In the 19th century, telephony brought in new patterns of dialogue as people could speak to each other at greater distances. Radio and TV broadcasting in the early 20th century introduced us to new styles and brought us sports commentators, chat shows and interviews. However, it is the internet that has had a massive change both in the way we speak and how we write English.
Who could have predicted that internet technology would have brought us so much diversity? For example, just think of the different technologies and the way we communicate in English using these technologies:
* the world wide web itself
* chat rooms
* instant messaging
* the virtual worlds of games
* mobile phone texting
* social Networking
We do not speak or communicate in the same way when we are blogging as when we are texting and each technology has its own style of the English language. These different styles of communication have exploded and will continue to evolve and you can see it in all forms of online marketing or offline marketing materials
Whilst the internet has produced some new vocabulary or “internet slang”, there are only a few hundred new English slang words in a language which has over one million words. So the 20th century slang of “groovy” and “funky” has given way to phrases like “lol” (laugh out loud), and “brb” (be right back) in the 21st century – but they are still relatively few.
So, although there are some new punctuation formats, e.g. emoticons, there have been no significant changes to grammar patterns or verb endings. The main change has been the style of language that we use when we communicate.
Lots of purists and people would like to preserve the correct way to speak English. However, no one can stop trends in style and slang from changing the way we communicate. Whether it is cave men’s drawing on walls, writing in sand with a stick, or sending a “tweet” to the other side of the world, the English language is something that will never be permanent and will be constantly changed by technology.