Many things distinguish human beings from the animal kingdom whether it’s opposable thumbs or our ability to think rationally, humans have led the evolutionary cycle. One of the greatest attributes of human beings is our ability to communicate clearly, understandably and cohesively through the use of language. Linguistics have changed our human ancestors from hunter gatherers to educated individuals; allowing us to research, invent and build objects and machines that are changing the way we lead our life, conduct our business and interact with our friends. But are these machines now changing our languages?
Many state ‘text speak’ is the main aggravator of our evolving languages; mobile phones are now one of the most ubiquitous items of technology found on the planet with an estimated 5.6 billion handsets in 2012. To cope with surging demand in the 90’s and early 2000’s, networks that carried the phones signal only allowed a certain amount of characters to be used per text, limiting each text to around 160 characters. In an effort to get as much information into a text, it became common practice to simplify communications and shorten words to abbreviations, numbers or simply removing parts of words altogether, messages like “see you tomorrow, laugh out loud” simply became “C U 2mrw, LOL”. Many dictionaries realised that words like ‘LOL’ weren’t just a cultural fad but were becoming a social norm and so started to include words formed through text speak into their most recent publications.
The World Wide Web is now a critical part of our daily lives, it’s almost unthinkable of a world without the internet, but could it be changing our languages too? Instant Messaging, Social networking and information consuming have all developed from a concept created less than 20 years ago creating some of the most recognisable and wealthy brands on the planet; Google, Facebook and MSN have all fuelled human desire to interact. This too has strengthened ‘Text speak’, people communicating quickly and sporadically whilst juggling an ever increasing amount of open tabs has caused some to accuse the internet of developing a less coherent tone to our languages.
Languages will always evolve, sociologists and anthropologists note the difference in the formation our languages from even a few centuries ago and technology may be just facilitating another evolution in linguistics. What do you think? Is it important to preserve the language of today or is it necessary to move with the times?