Of all the weapons known to man, language is the most powerful. A silver tongue can lead nations to war and undress someone else’s wife. From grunts and groans to grand poetic epics and holy books, it’s always served as a fundamental building block of civilization. When considering the many languages that have flourished, English remains the uncontested victor in terms of historical impact and economic importance.
Surviving invaders, plagues and revolutions, its resilience translates into influence far surpassing that of its waning homeland. Yet, nothing lasts forever. As globalization marches on and texting increasingly replaces verbal communication, many believe the current incarnation of English is on a downward spiral leading straight to extinction. In this article, I will examine whether such sensationalism is warranted.
Language Cannot Be Regulated
Once the holy grail of literary snobbery, the Oxford Dictionary has been under a lot of fire recently for including such charming definitions as “selfie” and “twerk”. Although these words are certainly obnoxious and cringe worthy, there is an unquestionable linguistic precedence for their inclusion. Namely, a language cannot be regulated. With enough time and cultural saturation, today’s slang has the potential of one day becoming an elementary student’s vocabulary homework. The below video brilliantly demonstrates the adaptability of English.
Spread through military conquest, trade, and religious indoctrination, English touches all corners of the globe, eagerly learned by the vast majority of nations. For example, 80% of conversations held in English at this very moment are happening between individuals who’ve learned it as a second language. Referred to as “the last lingua franca”, its rapid expansion is unprecedented. With over 1.5 billion non-native speakers projected by 2020, the language continues to absorb and morph, taking on new life with each culture it graces. For this reason, any attempts at strictly controlling its evolution are bound to prove futile.
Sexting to the Point of Retardation?
For a writer, Twitter’s strict character limit is a never-ending battle between grammar and cadence. It forces you to dig within and make your words as precise as possible. For the least common denominator, however, it’s merely an excuse to show off how badly they despised their English teachers. Juvenile acronyms and intentional misspellings, desperate attempts at trendiness. In fact, if you glance at a Twitter feed long enough, you’re almost certain to be creeped out by how strikingly some of the gibberish resembles George Orwell’s “Newspeak.”
The question isn’t IF modern English will die, but what kind of time frame we’re looking at. When pondering this, it’s important to factor in a few critical components. First, digital communication is still in its infancy, and it usually takes centuries for a language to become unrecognizable. Secondly, the butchering of words isn’t a new phenomenon. As famed linguist David Crystal explains, the practice dates back all the way to the Victorian aristocracy.
Indeed, Queen Victoria herself likely constructed sentences like “C u l8r”. After all, we’re talking about individuals without access to any form of electronic entertainment. When it came to remedying boredom, fornication and trivial word games usually did the trick. Nonetheless, times have obviously changed, and technology’s fusion with consciousness is already believed to be having a detrimental impact on mankind’s organic processing power.
Introducing Human Goldfish
No, the majority of students don’t write college essays in the same fashion they text their best friend, and if they ever wish to escape poverty and menial labor, they will be forced to develop refined language skills. In light of this, nobody is expecting an immediate dumbing down of English across business, news outlets and academia. Still, only the naive can deny that attention spans are shrinking. No matter how good of a writer I may be, chances are very few of your eyes have made it this far. You skim, absorb the punchlines, and then hit the back button.
We’ve become zombified by instant digital gratification, and there is a very real possibility that this is altering our collective cognitive ability. As a result, messages like “Wyd, bruh? I got dat loud, u wanna gt turnt up 2night” might just one day be viewed as Shakespearean. This isn’t merely an opinion spawning from intellectual pretentiousness. It’s an assertion backed up by hard data.
I am absolutely confident of two things.
1. The advancement of translation software will render English obsolete as the world’s lingua franca.
2. Technology is subtly re-wiring the brain, steadily turning ADHD into a marketable job skill, thereby accelerating the decimation of English’s most sophisticated elements.
That’s not to say current and future children will be imbeciles. Quite the opposite. So long as parents and teachers bring an adequate amount of enthusiasm to education, upcoming generations are poised to possess some of the brightest minds in human history. Be that as it may, the way that they speak will likely be indistinguishable from a modern day Special Olympian. It’s a fair trade, I suppose.