Lauren Ford

Language upgrade: The evolution of English

English

As many bemoan the current state of the English language, Lauren Ford, seeing regression as evolution, is inspired and excited by the continual updates to the language.

 

Anybody who has ever written more than a sentence in English has probably had that terrible moment where they have stopped dead and wondered why the English language has so many potential hazards. There are homophones and synonyms and double entendres…and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to englishlanguageguide.com.au, there are forty million native English speakers living in the world today and another seven hundred million that are involved in learning of English as a supplementary language. It is one of the official languages spoken during global sporting events as well as in the political arena, yet it has so many idiosyncrasies that even someone who has been speaking and writing English exclusively their entire life can sometimes still trip up.

Despite this widespread usage of English, it remains a tricky language to grasp and use effectively, especially with the constant alteration to what various words can mean depending on their context. This relates especially to the younger generations and their continuous appropriation of language and their adoption of everyday words to suit their own means.

The English language is always growing and the Oxford Dictionary is continuously adding new words to their database. These additions generally involve newly created words or phrases that reflect a social or cultural movement in its infancy, words such as “bestie” and “DIY-er” have both recently been added to the Oxford Dictionary.

The use and connotations of words have also fluctuated dramatically. This phenomenon can best be seen in the alterations to the meaning of the word “gay.” The change to the use of this particular word was bought to the nation’s attention in May of this year, when this word was used in a derogatory sense during a Rugby League game. In accordance with the anti-discrimination laws put forth by the NRL, the player involved was immediately reprimanded in relation to the alleged homophobic manner of this rant.

Like many of his contemporaries, the perpetrator of this slur, a Generation Y lad, used the word “gay” as a synonym for “lame,” as in most contexts it has no correlation to sexual preference. This particular word has had, if you’ll pardon the pun, a colourful history, having transitioned from meaning happy and joyous to its current designation. Also having had a brief foray as a girl’s name, this word is a prime example of the fluidity of the English language and its various pitfalls.

The changes in the way that we use language have been remarkable over the past centuries due to globalisation and the various technological additions to the world of communication and reading and writing.

The world of smart phones and 140 character missives has led to the shortening of the English language; it is now no longer simply the note takers of the world that have had to resort to altering their words to save time and space. There have been concessions made to both traditional grammar and spelling that are the hallmark of what can be considered “good” English, and various abbreviations have also led to the creation of new words and phrases.

These comprises have not all been detrimental and there are some fantastic people on Twitter who have risen to the challenge of the character constraint and created some wonderful, if short, statements on every type of topic imaginable.

As the English language continues to morph, whether due to technological advancement or natural progression, the power of the written word and the ability that humanity has to shape their environment through reading and writing will no doubt continue to be both awe inspiring and slightly concerning.

No matter what, from Henry James to EL James, the power of the English language is remarkable.

 

Lauren Ford

Lauren Ford is currently in her fifth year of university and studying creative and academic writing. She has combined this with her love of history and current affairs to produce articles on issues that she enjoys.

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