The English language is an continuously changing aspect: something which evolves, pushed on its way by a number of contemporary issues. A popular debate today is whether or not the aforementioned evolution is positive, or whether it represents all that some argue is wrong with modern society. This article seeks to explore the ways in which language has changed and, to an extent, answer this ever-present question.

Firstly, let’s address the things which drive changes in language. A fitting place to begin is technology. What with Shout Out UK being an on-line news platform, I’m sure you’re all familiar with the jargon that has become prevalent thanks to the influx of new technology in the modern world. For example, acronyms such as “lol” (laugh out loud) and “omg” (oh my god) have been introduced to achieve a faster, more efficient text messaging style while the increasingly popular social media platform twitter, for instance, encourages abbreviated words in order to meet the 130 character limit imposed on each tweet. With the massive number of people who use the said platforms, it is somewhat an inevitability that this language is going to spread beyond the computer screens and into people’s everyday vocabulary.

Negative? Let’s explore. The Daily Mail, who investigated what has become known as ‘teenspeak’ stated that teenagers “are becoming unemployable because they use a vocabulary of just 800 words” which consists of  “made up words and text speak”. Although some may make a conscious effort to avoid speaking in such a way, an online poll states that 41.96 percent of those who partook subconsciously use vocabulary coined from the internet in their everyday speech. That the employers themselves are saying that young people are heavily influenced by this type of language than older generations (who are of course less exposed to the technological influences discussed), is indicative that the English language’s movement is, to an extent, negative.

Another heavy influence of the changing of the English language is cultural influences. According to the 2011 Census information, London’s population is 18.4 percent Asian and 13.3 percent Black. Considering the array of nationalities covered by these groups, there has been a massive influx of words native to other countries, into Britain. A prime example of this would be the word ‘blud’: a noun (or even arguably adjective) formed through the compounding of the words ‘blood’ and ‘brother’. In addition, historical links with foreign countries have also brought about new words into the English language, as much through borrowing as coinage. One of a vast array of borrowed words from other countries comes in the form of ‘rendezvous’, a French word in origin which sits comfortably in the English dictionary. In this sense, cultural/native influences on language can be seen as contradictory to the feeling that modern language is becoming ‘worse’ because our dictionary has been expanded usefully as a result.

Moreover, one unexplained aspect of language change can be found in the phonetics (word sounds). ‘Ellipsis’ describes the omission of syllable sounds in order to produce a word faster or more colloquially; for example ‘isn’t it’ becoming ‘innit’ or ‘do you’ becoming ‘d’ya’. This is expected to be found in casual situations like when conversing with friends, however it doesn’t take a trained linguist to notice the increasing number of people who take this ‘bad habit’ into more formal situations. Using this language in the wrong situations, as happens so often, of course shows the detrimental effects of modern speech.

There are many slang /colloquial words which have even generated talk of being added to the Oxford Dictionary; most of which are largely unaccountable for. The abbreviation ‘gratz’ short for ‘congratulations’ is one of these and could easily be attributed as a result of technological developments or as one of the many Americanisms which characterise modern English.

Not only does this article aim to provoke thought within its readers, but also to encourage response. Has your speech or vocabulary ever had negative effects in social or professional situations? Have you ever turned away a potential employee because of the way they speak? Even more extreme, would you judge somebody based on their pronunciation of certain words, or the way they apply them?

To conclude this piece, I would say that it is largely  impossible to characterise the changes in the English language as being positive or negative. In many ways, a diversifying language is necessary to ‘stay with the times’. There are numerous examples of archaic / obsolete words which have fallen out of use. This will undoubtedly continue to happen for as long as people can speak.

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