Is Language Change a good thing?
'A living lexicon.'
The English language is a ‘living lexicon’, this was said by the famous linguist and descriptivist David Crystal. Crystal explained how language adapts constantly to fit our ever-changing society and lives and breathes as if it were you or I. Like how we, as human beings, change and adapt our behaviour or outward appearances for different situations, language does the same. As we change, language changes. For example, in the early 1900’s, there was no need for nouns like ‘mobile’ or ‘telephone’ because the object itself was non-existent. Therefore, it is clear to see how the neologism of that time mirrored the latest technological advance. This happens constantly as we are continually advancing in all areas of our society and we can see language reflecting this. Thinking about it if language didn’t change we would not have the vocabulary to express anything new, we would have such a restricted word bank that we may as well be stripped of our own tongues.
Prescriptivism vs Descriptivism
Descriptivism - the view is shaped by the belief that there is no superior language, languages are all equally respected. It is polar opposite to prescriptivism which takes the stance that in order to do the best you can in life you need to speak a certain way. John Honey was a linguist who took this view as his own. Let’s look at an example, everyone reading this most probably owns a mobile phone and have probably at some point in their interactive lives used an acronym like ‘lol’. A prescriptivist would turn up their nose and look down on all of you, as using this type of language is inferior and shouldn’t be used at any time as it disadvantages you in our society (pretty harsh if you ask me). Whereas a descriptivist wouldn’t think anything of it as acronyms are part of another form of language that fits and is perfectly acceptable in the language of technology. They would however believe that you should not use ‘lol’ in a job interview - not because it is an inferior form of language but because it is not suitable in the context.
So, which stance are you taking?
Is Social media ruining our language?
Social media is a modern-day hype that has added a whole new dimension to the English language. It’s a fact that Shakespeare created more new words than the bible and I believe that social media has very possibly taken over Shakespeare’s reigning title of most words contributed to our language. Like I said earlier on, new words reflect new creations, we have had so many technological advances in the past 10 years with new ‘apps’ and devices so this in itself has required language to change and expand in order to keep up. As well as this texting/tweeting/snapping, whatever form of social media you like to use, creates neologisms every day. Take twitter for example, we are constantly finding new ways to say things that are shorter or snappier for the purpose of filling that limited character count. And with the rapid communication around the globe now, any new words that spark interest of a respected celebrity will be coming out of every kid’s mouth a day after them saying it or putting it in a tweet. A new word can be created, broadcasted and popular enough to add it to the dictionary in a single day due to the power of technology.
To end, a quote from Peter Trudgill that for me perfectly highlights how language change is inevitable:
‘the only languages that do not change are those, like Latin, that nobody speaks’.