Friday, July 21, 2017

Linguistic Evolution

Last week, a friend and I had an interesting conversation about what the internet is doing to the evolution of the English language. I used to be one of those "English Purists," who corrected people's grammar, insisted there was only way "correct" way to use English, and shuddered at the thought of chat speak. But during this conversation, I was the one defending internet slang.

Here are some things I think are really cool about the way the internet is changing language:
  1. Easier access to words from other languages that describe things we have no good words for in English. Some of my favorite posts on Tumblr are lists of these types of things, and I love being able to better research other languages in general (but, seriously, stay away from Google Translate, okay?). 
  2. More breadth of tonal punctuation. There was a post going around a few weeks ago that explained this better than I can here, but basically the casual evolution of the way people talk on the internet has provided some really incredible ways to punctuate things in order to provide better tone context, like sarcasm or confusion, or getTING SUPER EXCITED. Sure, it looks weird at first to see typing in crescendo like that or a bunch of question marks in the middle of a sentence to denote an up-tone, but the fact that people have basically agreed that these particular changes to punctuation and capitalization mean these particular things is just really cool to me. 
  3. A whole new level of connotations to use. My roommate and I basically communicate almost purely in memes and pop culture references--it's a pretty common thing to see on the internet, too--but this actually provides us with a very deep level of communication, due to the specific connotations, emotions, and memories tied to a particular reference or meme. So instead of just saying "hey, I appreciate you," we say something along the lines of "hey, thanks for being my Prompto," which comes with the same basic gratitude, but with the added connotations of "you make me laugh; I couldn't do this without you; and I love and appreciate you, please don't let me accidentally throw you off a train in the middle of a frozen wasteland." 

Emer might spend entirely too much time on the internet, but since she can now justify it as linguistic research, she doesn't really care. If you need her, she'll be working on her fanfic and re-watching Yuri on Ice again. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember an interview with a linguist, where he was talking about the evolution of language and communication. We went from passing information via speech, to creating pictographs. Pictographs then led to abstract alphabets. The invention of the telephone led us back to being a verbal culture. With the advent of the internet and smart phones, we returned to communicating via text and now we use images as shorthand. Our linguistic wheel keeps on turning.

    If you haven’t run across Stephen Pinker, he has a number of interesting books on linguistics.

    The Ancient Egyptians were doing cat pics long before the internet, but they never did come up with the Grumpy Bastet meme. So, we have that going for us.