The Internet has changed lives, and it’s changing language too

The past ten years have seen enormous advances in communication. In mobile phone communication we have moved from basic text messages in 2001 to sophisticated apps in 2012 and on to possible neutrino-based communication in the future. In terms of the Internet, we have moved from simple browsing capabilities to online shopping, gaming and the explosion of electronic social networking.

New forms of communication bring new forms of language. Back in the early 2000s when text messages were limited to a certain number of characters, people had to shorten words and use abbreviations. Starting with the obvious abbreviation of ‘u’, our young generation became more inventive and now ‘gr8’, ‘RUOK?’, ‘L8R’ and ‘BCNU’ are the norm. Such abbreviations have become so ingrained that teachers have reported students using them in formal exam papers.

The expressing of emotions has been changed by modern forms of communication. Nowadays we have a range of smiley faces and facial expressions to convey our mood. We can use ‘LOL’ to convey laughter and ‘OMG’ to convey shock. We can overpunctuate to show how strongly we feel about something – the more punctuation, the stronger the feeling. Shock, surprise confusion and outrage can all be expressed by ‘???!!!’ in varying formations, and different symbols (for example, ‘@*&^’) can be used to suggest expletives/missing words.

While this is all very convenient, could we be in danger of losing our ability to express how we are feeling in words? Are we becoming lazy, or is the pace of our lives simply too fast to have time to converse in the traditional ways? And what happens when we use these shortcuts in more formal situations? Should we be discouraging this, or should we allow people to form new ways of communication and formally accept such terms into our language? Recently ‘LOL’, ‘WAG’, ‘jeggings’ and even the heart symbol (♥) have all been accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary, while ‘cassette tape’ has been ousted for being out of date.

Who knows what the future may bring by way of advances in communication technology, and the resulting impact upon our language. All we know is, the journey of our language is a fascinating one. So sit back and enjoy the ride. ☺

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