Apr 17, 2009

The Evolution of Etymology: How Human Language Changes & Grows

We’ve all heard the universal lament: Cell phones and e-mail accounts are downgrading language. Abbreviations and emoticons are blamed for dropping literacy rates and for lingual confusion virtually all over the world, as teens and tweens spend, according to one British study, about 31 hours per week online texting, surfing, and chatting—versus 3 hours each week studying via the internet. Contrary to popular belief, however, the reverse may be the real truth: Newsweek Magazine reported in an article last August that “texting may give literacy a boost,” because exposure to language equals exposure to language—period.

The fact is, language—no matter which you speak or in what part of the world—changes. Pick up any book written in any decade of the 20th Century, fiction or non-fiction, and you’re sure to find yourself amused at some point by the notable differences in conversational tones. The English language, spoken by more than 20 percent of the world, has morphed from Middle English and “Olde Englishe” (as it was then written), and beyond that, from the Romance languages of Latin and Greek. Etymologically, English has been internationally influenced at each turn as the world population shifts, grows, and eternally relocates.

It should come as no surprise then that language continues to transform as the various countries of the world meet up online. Merriam-Webster’s “open dictionary” takes a firm hold on the helm of this exploration, inviting internet users to add their own words (or “slanguage” as one anonymous contributor put it) to an ever-growing list.

Wikipedia, the open source e-encyclopedia, also has its own open content dictionary, or Wiktionary. It integrates multiple languages into one dictionary source for any speaker-user around the globe.

It’s also not unexpected to note the several books and e-books on the subject of linguistic adaptation. The hand-held reading device Amazon Kindle, having released over 265,000 titles to date—currently priced at around $10—has at least 57, alone, about the ever-changing English language.

What’s your personal contribution to the word world? If you consciously create, unconsciously co-create, or even simply help proliferate the language you speak, hear, read, write, type or text (imagine: “text” is now a verb!), you are a part of the ever-evolving human existence. Welcome to growth! And talk about progressive!

(c) KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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