Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Back in August, Mitch Tulloch posted a blog discussing technology and language. He stated that language changing in response to a change in technology was not unusual--after the invention of cars, we say "driving me crazy," or "high maintenance." But, while it's not unusual to see these changes in language, I think the changes are happening much faster for two reasons--new technology is developing rapidly, and new technology is ubiquitous. Also, we use technology to communicate, not just to get from place to place, like a car. So it's only natural that the tool of communication affects the way we communicate.

I just remembered hearing a story about the first time Bell used his telephone--everyone at the time thought that "hello" was a silly thing to say. No wonder we're constantly amazed at new language brought about by technology. We go through a phase where we think it's silly before it becomes second nature.

For Mitch Tulloch's full blog, click here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

As technology evolves, language is left behind for us to argue about. Webster's dictionary still says "website" is correct, but the AP Stylebook says "Web site" is the proper usage. AP style requires the use of "e-mail," but Webster's uses "email." Both agree, however, that "Internet" should be capitalized. Why did these rules evolve in this way? How long will it take for them to become accepted, just as the rest of the words in this blog have been? Well, except "blog," maybe. Neither "blog" nor "weblog" are in Webster's or the AP Stylebook.

For an interesting history of the interval of realization of technology after a civilizing event, click here. This article discusses how technology is adopted after an invention or discovery throughout time, from horses to portraits to clocks and more. It does not directly relate to the evolution of language with technology, but gives a background of the time it takes to incorporate technology into our lives.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Mike Carr, a writer for Gastonia, North Carolina's Gaston Gazette, put forth an interesting point in an article he wrote in January 2000. He says that technology is changing language not just because of the introduction of techno-terminology or use of acronyms in chat rooms, but because so many different languages are merging online.

"Some time in the past week or two I saw a notice that there are now more than a billion Web sites. Most of those are open to any Internet-connected computer. Their impact, just in sheer numbers, is tremendous.

"But the huge volume also means most of the owners of those Web sites do not speak English as a native language. Yet English remains the most-used language and the closest thing we have to an international language.

"And as English bumps head-on into other languages it picks up bits and pieces and drops off others. Both languages change. During times when the users of different languages mingle more, such as during our major wars, our language has changed even more rapidly, as servicemen brought back new words and slang terms.

"Now these users of different languages are mingling every day. Thoughts are flowing around the world with absolutely no regard to geographic or language barriers."

(For full article, click here)

Although the article is old, I think the argument is still valid. English is the most universal language we have today, but so many people of different backgrounds and nationalities are on the Web today, languages are bound to begin to merge.

The article goes on to say that Dr. Eduard Hovy, director of the Natural Language Group at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California, thinks that computers will soon be able to translate thousands of languages. This would mean we could write in English as a universal language, or rely on our computers to translate our texts. This could make communication much easier, or it could make it much more clumsy and innacurate.

Friday, October 17, 2003

In August of this year, the BBC published a story about the death of "hello" and "goodbye" (click here). The author says that e-mail and text messaging are causing these words to be replaced by "hey," "hola," "laters," and "ciao." (Well, the author also mentions "g'day," but I don't think that's very prevalent in America.)

The author makes reference to a report that contained survey results on this topic, but the name of the report was never given. Also, the name of the author is not given, for some reason.

The last sentence of the article is what I would like to research more. The author quotes Tracy Blacher, MSN marketing director: "What is interesting is the speed that language is being modified by the adoption of new technology." This is exactly what I want to find out more about--how fast has technology changed language in the past? How does the pace at which language is changing now compare to that previous pace? I'll research more on the topic and check back later.

(click here)

Monday, October 13, 2003

After taking a look at Chatropolis (click here), it's amazing the English language still exists; that it's not just acronyms by now. (For a discussion about the use of "initialism" vs. "acronym," click here. I'll be using "acronym" when referring to these chat terms.) I chat online with friends frequently, but only one of them uses a large number of these acronyms. He's confused me with OMG (Oh My God), DQMOT (Don't Quote Me On This), and TTYL (Talk To You Later). I learned them by asking what they meant when I saw them--that is, until I found Chatropolis.

It seems natural that we would abbreviate these common phrases. Chatting is a quick way of talking casually. It's not deep discussion, we just want to get our words out there quickly. Plus, if you've ever had the pleasure of chatting with a 60-year-old, you know that speed is a very useful skill.

The BBC has a much shorter listing of chat acronyms, emoticons, and slang (click here). Chatropolis is much more extensive, and has many more emoticons, ranging from Abe Lincoln to "has just eaten a lemon" to "manic depressive" and many more.

It's amazing how much we can shrink down words and ideas that we have taken centuries to make suitable for our use. Perhaps this evolution is happening on a much faster scale now because technology necessitates it.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003

To some, words are just words, but to a writer, words are a medium. They are like paint to a painter or stone to a sculptor, and should be treated with care. However, the introduction of myriad terms into the English language (and others) has the journalism world in a tizzy. I've seen at least three different versions of "online" and I'll scream if I see one more lowercase "Web." How long does it normally take for a word to be integrated into a language and its use become standardized? Even Webster's and the AP Stylebook don't agree on many of these new words. Technology has introduced an abundance of words into our language in the past couple of decades. Has such a massive introduction of vocabulary ever happened in the past? I'll be exploring this modern linguistic evolution in more detail in later posts.

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