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Online Language Evolution

im @ coffee w/1 of my BFFs discussing new media + its effect on language. its srsly interesting 2 me...

While part of me is bothered by the butchery of "proper" English, another part knows that this is a natural element of communication throughout history; however, it's never happened at such a rapid rate.

Traditionalists may complain that the younger generations are missing out on something important when they use wrong words, misspell, or populate their texts with weird slang, but the ultimate goal is communication--so if their words are understood, it could be argued that they've simply taken a more efficient route to completing a goal.

Is this to be praised? I'm not sure. I really love wordplay and appreciate the cleverness required for a good turn of phrase, but maybe the kids are onto something by expressing in 140 characters what once took much more space and energy to say. On the other hand, is there a point at which online- and text-style writing effects our spoken language? If that happens, is anyone getting "left behind" in the process; i.e., will Grandma and Baby speak the same language?

To those who are frustrated about losing that written artistry, there is an upshot: With everything so accessible to everyone, as soon as a new iteration in language evolution occurs, there is reference material to provide translation. So a parent doesn't need to feel stupid when they encounter cyber-slang as they snoop on their kid's Facebook page or mobile text history--they can just hop over to Google and find out what everything means.

I've always kind of believed in knowing the roots of a process before subscribing to the most state-of-the-art solution.

For example, although it's possible for a designer to get a job printed without it, knowledge of the history of non-digital printing set-up and production is helpful. A thorough understanding of how printing presses work can aid in solving production issues that arise.

Maybe this is true of language evolution too. Without knowledge of language origins, is it possible to discern who is really being clever within the new language constraints? Are literary devices as clear--or as subtle--when drowning in new media-isms? My guess is that the definitions of these things will change too as we continue to stretch the parameters of what our language is and where it is headed.

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