Is the Internet Simplifying Our Language?

We’re witnessing the evolution of language at an incredible rate. Flickr and Tumblr have left their “e” in the dust, Reddit traded an “a” for a “d” and contracted into a single word. We’ve stumbled upon interesting websites and we’ve StumbleUponed them. And I’m Tweeting tweets, Dad, not Twittering twits.

Our language is changing. The writing of 2050 will look different from the writing of George Orwell, who warned us of an overly simplified language rendering us unable to share complex ideas.

That would be undoubtedly doubleplusungood. 

But our language isn’t becoming simpler, it’s evolving to fit a new medium. And the new medium is all about conversation, while yesterday’s English was one way only. We certainly can’t fit the complexity of, say, Two Treatise of Government into a hashtag. But we can start a dialogue about governance with one – just search #OccupyWallStreet on Twitter for evidence of that.

In fact, our language is becoming more complex.

Our lexicon is growing every day. Words are being modified and shortened. New terms are born, and, as an adolescent child becoming a young adult must do, they’re finding their place in the world. Like many of us during our coming of age, some of these words are awkward and have trouble fitting in. Some rebel against the norms, and try as we might, it’s difficult to get them to conform to standard English style.

But despite this proliferation of new terminology, communication is easier, faster and more accessible than ever. Ideas are spreading with no regard for geographical or political boundaries. Conversations are being held on international, national, local and hyperlocal scales in the digital space.

There will always be room for beautiful prose and marvelous writers. But no longer does one need to hold a mastery over the complexities of English, or any other language, to have access to a vast audience. One must only be informative, or entertaining, or inspiring.

It’s an incredible phenomenon, and I’m glad to be a witness and a participant. I can’t wait to see where it goes, to see where we take it.

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About Alex Fitzpatrick

Alex Fitzpatrick is Homepage Editor for Time.com, also covering technology, policy and cybersecurity. He previously covered politics and policy for Mashable. Fitzpatrick has a degree in International Relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he also served as News Director and Station Manager for the campus radio station, 89.3 WGSU. Follow Fitzpatrick on Twitter at @AlexJamesFitz or email him at alex.fitzpatrick@timeinc.com.
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