The Internet. The end of English as we know it?

“English 3.0”, a 20-minute video by documentary film-maker Joe Gilbert, “explores how the internet has influenced the way we communicate today and whether the changes witnessed have had a positive effect on the language”. It features interviews with Tom Chatfield (author and cultural commentator), David Crystal (author and linguist), Robert McCrum (associate editor of The Observer), Fiona McPherson (lexicographer) and Prof. Simon Horobin (author and academic).

Take a look and let us know what you think: has the Internet been good or bad for English? Do “ROFL”, “C U L8R”, “amazeballs” (no doubt out of fashion by now…) and all the rest mean that the language is in terminal decline?

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By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Hello Marian,

    Nice post, thanks for sharing. I think that there are different “registers” in language, always have been, and Internet has been made a sort of bogey-man, unnecessarily. Formal writing and formal language will remain as they are and changing along with technology (new words will be needed to describe landing on a comet, for example). Texting, abbreviating, tweeting, are a special lingo or jargon and in my opinion, will not affect the language, which (the language) will however keep evolving – an unstoppable process….

    Best regards, and have a nice weekend.

    1. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comment, Nélida. I agree – I don’t think texting and the Internet are having a negative effect on language. They’re introducing changes and providing lots more scope for informal writing, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

  2. Hello, Marian. This is my first time commenting on your blog. I believe there is no such thing as terminal decline; linguists have made an art and almost science of whimsically accepting some changes and rejecting some others. That is essentially an art of putting up a show of resistance just for enough time but not too long, as if to fully accept what was hip during one’s parents’ time, grudgingly accept what was hip during one’s own time — at the same time deprecating whatever had been hip during one’s grandparents’ time — but never accept anything from one’s children time until perhaps grandchildren show up, whose vernacular may become the new anathema.

    All this while using ‘the language is changing’, ‘the language evolves’ and all other catch phrases of descriptive linguistics to support whichever new developments one wants to support, while scoffing in a perfectly prescriptive way at whatever one cannot abide, which is a methodology most solemnly condemned by the same scoffer when it gets in the way of something he or she desires to ratify.

    … And often while forgetting how our present languages formed. For example did Latin die? Sure. When? Who the heck nows. For example in the 9th century it was both still Latin and already French. At some point it became only French, but you can’t really nail that point down, especially not in a way that everybody would agree on or be in any way capable of conclusively proving. In most cases those are rather transitions between archaic, classical and late forms of the language, but everybody always lives in a time of transition one way or the other, and as far as the process goes, I don’t think anything new’s ever going on any more (though the data is fresh and sometimes moderately interesting).

    This is why I tend to yawn when linguists sound their alarms.

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