Social Media Speeds Up Language Evolution

ThinkstockPhotos-471419234John Sutherland, a professor of English from University College London, led a study that confirmed the English Language is evolving faster than ever due to social media and communication technology. Sutherland's study on common social media and “text speak” terms found that most British parents were baffled by the language used by their children. According to the study, which was commissioned by Samsung for a phone launch, there was a “seismic generational gap” between the older and younger generations when it came to how modern informal language was used.

The term that parents found most confusing was “fleek” – which means looking good – followed by “bae,” which is thought to have come from “before anyone else,” or to represent a shortened version of “babe.” 86% of parents in the survey said that they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media. Popular social media acronyms “ICYMI” (in case you missed it), “TBT” (throwback Thursday) and “NSFW” (not safe for work) also made the list of terms parents failed to understand. Sutherland said, “The limitation of characters on old handsets were a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8. “However technological evolution has meant that these words are now effectively extinct from the text speak language and are seen as antique text speak.”

Geoff Nunberg, Linguist and professor at UC Berkeley said in an interview with Buzzfeed, “Fleek is interesting because it just bubbled up out of nowhere in a way that words didn’t used to. It used to be that slang began among high school kids and worked its way around the school and maybe spread to kids in other generations before eventually reaching the speech of older people. By the time the older people were using it, the high school kids had moved on to something else. The whole point of slang is to keep your language separate, but now you can make a video or a Vine, a word catches on, the link is passed all around and two weeks later there are 2 billion people who are using this word, it’s astonishing.” In accordance with this, Tom Dalzell, a self-proclaimed slang historian, told the Wall Street Journal, “Yesterday’s cutting-edge is today’s ho-hum. [Social media has] really shortened the shelf life.” Slang is not only created more quickly due to social media and technology, but goes out of style faster because once a new slang word reaches a wider audience it loses its value.

2 COMMENTS

  1. ABOUT “TECHNOLOGY” I have been oberving that my “friend Albert Einstein” was sure when stated : ” I FEAR THE DAY THAT TECHNOLOGY WILL SURPASS OUR HUMAN INTERACTION. THE WORLD WILL HAVE A GENARATION OF IDIOTS “.
    I agree that Technology brought us plenty of advantages , but when looking at a group of young end even adults “interacting” with somebody else but the others next to them , through mobiles , I understand that Einstein was full of reason. [email protected]

  2. Social media speeds up language change. There is no evidence that language evolves.

    Change is something that happens to virtually everything. Evolution is a specific type of change. Evolution involves the presence of a replicating entity contained in a host entity that is copied with a chance of error and then transmitted to another host entity.

    No replicator transmitted through an error-possible process, no evolution.

    You can use the math that’s the same, if you want, an “evolutionary algorithm”. Take the word as the replicator unit and derive an error rate based on historical observations of language change (from Indo-European). Apply the algorithm backwards to determine when target languages may have originated or diverged. Apply the algorithm to a new data set of words that appeared since the calibration of rate of change to determine if that rate has changed, as in the current research.

    The problem remains: you have designated the replicator, not discovered it.

    Math is math. You can use addition on anything, even things that don’t exist. The fact that addition applies does not mean that the things being added share anything in common other than the property of being subject to addition. It certainly doesn’t mean that the imaginary things you can add up exist.

    With more complicated math, we tend to think that if the same formulae apply, there must be some important relationship among the objects the formulae apply to. This may be true, if we have already independently established that the things we are applying the formulae to are highly likely to exist. But the application of formulae to objects that we have created does not call them into existence.

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