Grammar police, start your engines. The Internet is corrupting the English language at an alarming rate per this report from the BBC News Magazine:
Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing…
There are now thought to be some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. And with half the population of China now on line, most of them are written in Chinese.
Still, some linguists predict that within 10 years English will dominate the internet – but in forms very different to what we accept and recognise as English today.
That’s because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don’t have to worry about their accent.
English remains the single most commonly-used language on the web. But in 2010, for the first time ever, the majority of the world’s data was in non-English text.
That’s because new computer technology has made it easier to read and write in non-Roman languages.
“Much technology was initially unreliable in languages other than those using Roman script,” he says. “But the broader adoption of standards like Unicode means that this is changing.”
Unicode enables a message generated in Chinese characters in Shanghai to appear the same when it’s read on a computer or mobile device in San Francisco.
“The internet enfranchises people who are not native speakers to use English in significant and meaningful ways,” says Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington DC.
Users of Facebook already socialise in a number of different “Englishes” including Indian English, or Hinglish, Spanglish (Spanish English) and Konglish (Korean English). While these variations have long existed within individual cultures, they’re now expanding and comingling online.
“On the internet, all that matters is that people can communicate – nobody has a right to tell them what the language should be,” says Prof Baron. “If you can talk Facebook into putting up pages, you have a language that has political and social standing even if it doesn’t have much in the way of linguistic uniqueness.”
Some words are adaptations of traditional English: In Singlish, or Singaporean English, “blur” means “confused” or “slow”: “She came into the conversation late and was blur as a result.”…
[continues in the BBC News Magazine]
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