I admit that emoticons and LOL have crept into my e-mail. McWhorter may see this phenomenon as a linguistic miracle and, as a linguistics major, I try very hard to accept evolution but I do wonder if it makes people take me less seriously, when I slip up and include web-speak. 😦
More than 22 million text messages are sent across the world every day … many in truly terrible English. It’s the end of the world as we know it, many decry. The decline and fall of written language means the end for us all, right? Not so fast. Linguist John McWhorter has a great new theory on what’s really going on in modern texting. Far from being a scourge, texting is a linguistic miracle.
Spoken human language has been around for about 150,000 years, but it wasn’t until much later that written language came about; as he puts it: “If humanity has existed for 24 hours, writing came about at 11:07 pm.” This distinction is crucial what it comes to the so-called degradation of written language — because texting isn’t written language. It much more closely resembles the kind of language we’ve had for so many more years: spoken language.
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