The Internet. The end of English as we know it?

“English 3.0”, a 20-minute video by documentary film-maker Joe Gilbert, “explores how the internet has influenced the way we communicate today and whether the changes witnessed have had a positive effect on the language”. It features interviews with Tom Chatfield (author and cultural commentator), David Crystal (author and linguist), Robert McCrum (associate editor of The Observer), Fiona McPherson (lexicographer) and Prof. Simon Horobin (author and academic).

Take a look and let us know what you think: has the Internet been good or bad for English? Do “ROFL”, “C U L8R”, “amazeballs” (no doubt out of fashion by now…) and all the rest mean that the language is in terminal decline?

Other posts you might like:

Apostrophes: everything you ever wanted to know, just about.

Nouning and verbing: an ask too far?

Life’s a beach? Great! But please, not on LinkedIn…

By Marian Dougan

3 Responses

  1. Hello Marian,

    Nice post, thanks for sharing. I think that there are different “registers” in language, always have been, and Internet has been made a sort of bogey-man, unnecessarily. Formal writing and formal language will remain as they are and changing along with technology (new words will be needed to describe landing on a comet, for example). Texting, abbreviating, tweeting, are a special lingo or jargon and in my opinion, will not affect the language, which (the language) will however keep evolving – an unstoppable process….

    Best regards, and have a nice weekend.

    1. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comment, Nélida. I agree – I don’t think texting and the Internet are having a negative effect on language. They’re introducing changes and providing lots more scope for informal writing, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

  2. Hello, Marian. This is my first time commenting on your blog. I believe there is no such thing as terminal decline; linguists have made an art and almost science of whimsically accepting some changes and rejecting some others. That is essentially an art of putting up a show of resistance just for enough time but not too long, as if to fully accept what was hip during one’s parents’ time, grudgingly accept what was hip during one’s own time — at the same time deprecating whatever had been hip during one’s grandparents’ time — but never accept anything from one’s children time until perhaps grandchildren show up, whose vernacular may become the new anathema.

    All this while using ‘the language is changing’, ‘the language evolves’ and all other catch phrases of descriptive linguistics to support whichever new developments one wants to support, while scoffing in a perfectly prescriptive way at whatever one cannot abide, which is a methodology most solemnly condemned by the same scoffer when it gets in the way of something he or she desires to ratify.

    … And often while forgetting how our present languages formed. For example did Latin die? Sure. When? Who the heck nows. For example in the 9th century it was both still Latin and already French. At some point it became only French, but you can’t really nail that point down, especially not in a way that everybody would agree on or be in any way capable of conclusively proving. In most cases those are rather transitions between archaic, classical and late forms of the language, but everybody always lives in a time of transition one way or the other, and as far as the process goes, I don’t think anything new’s ever going on any more (though the data is fresh and sometimes moderately interesting).

    This is why I tend to yawn when linguists sound their alarms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Recent Posts