Monday, 4 January 2016

Technologies Influences on how we use Language

This essay was written as a means of preparing for my year 12 linguistics examination. Language is a truly fascinating phenomenon and I hope you get something from it.

Language is a phenomena that is unique to humanity, in the complex way humans use it. English is a modern, pluricentric language and Standard Australian English is an even newer variety that is built up of its own unique syntactical, lexical, phonological and semantic features. To get to its current stage in its history, English endured many changes that significantly shaped it into the language it is today. In previous centuries, English commonly evolved by borrowing words that were used by people that English speakers invaded or were invaded by. Nowadays however, the English language is seeing changes occur at faster rates than ever before. This rapid change can be put down to a far more passive phenomenon known as, the Internet.

"The English language is evolving at a faster rate now than at any other time in history because of social media and instant messaging, a language expert has said... parents who took part in the survey said they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter." - 1 May 2015, downloaded 4 May 2014.
This quotation speaks great volume. Online social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype provide instantaneous text messaging and video chatting capabilities at no obvious monetary cost. With increased accessibility to these modern services, the current generation of youth are essentially pioneering the next big stage in the evolution of English. As modern forms of electronic, digital communication are so fast paced, many words have been shortened into abbreviated forms and the apostrophe has been removed from many contractions. These changes have been so dynamic that even an extensive range of blended neologisms have come into existence, which plays a huge role in shaping the lexicon to most youth. For example, "OIC" is now commonly accepted as an equivalent of 'Oh, I see'. Other shortenings that utilise initialisms include "IDK" for 'I don't know', "srry" for 'sorry', "OHK" for 'oh okay' and of cause the infamous "LOL" which generally means 'laugh out loud'. However, "LOL" has also been known to mean 'Lots of love' and even 'Living on Lipitor'.

There are different attitudes towards this accelerated evolution in English. Some people think of the internet's influence on the language of young people as a destructive force that is annihilating their language skills. The Internet language used by youth is commonly known as 'teenspeak'. There are also those who are known as descriptivists - describers of how language is currently being used. Prescriptivists often claim (not necessarily in these exact words) that social media such as Facebook, Skype, Instagram and blogs are breeding grounds for the destruction of Standard English. It is true that the language commonly used on the Internet is so different that it could be considered another dialect that is most popular with young people, however, research data indicates that the quality of standard English has not dropped in secondary schools and universities. The Internet has only provided youth with a more flexible means of expressing themselves with language and as modern day students have demonstrated in most of Australia's educational institutions, they are able to interchange or switch between the two dialects with relative ease.

Language in essence is communication. If there is one dimension the Internet has had the most influence on English, it is efficiency. The rate at which people can communicate over the world is instantaneous for the first time in history. The average Australian can now have a face to face conversation with someone in Canada using their smart phones. Increased discourse with other branches of English can potentially deteriorate certain aspects of Australian English and other Englishes, creating a more unified version. This linguistic assimilation occurs through constant exposure to the phonetic/sound that speakers of other nations have become accustomed to articulating in everyday life. Speakers of other accents and/or even other lexicons may even adopt Australianisms.

Technology's intervention has had dynamic effects on the linguistic evolution of Australia's younger generations. Some see technology as a driving force of linguistic mutation, whilst others see it as a driving force for evolution. Regardless, technology has had profound effects on our language in accelerating communications between people around the world. With no indication that technology's intervention will come to a halt, things only appear to be speeding up.

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