MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

2b Or Not 2B

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A linguistics professor at the American University in Washington D.C has been studying the effect that e-mail, IM, SMS, and search engines are having on English. Naomi Baron’s Alphabet to Email: How written English has evolved and where it’s going explores the phenomena of web-speak – the abbreviations, symbols, icons, emoticons that we use online – and suggests, among other things, that technology and social factors (ex. primary education that sidelines grammar instruction) have allowed this linguistic offshoot to sprout.

The article I read reviewing Baron’s book also highlights other commentators and suggests that while younger generations embrace these shortcuts, there are really only a handful that are used widely and frequently. Online dialects are essentially slang and will never be widely adopted and influence a fundamental shift in the English language. This zip-filed lexicon suffers from the shallowness of what it expresses. The most common abbreviations represent blinks of the eye or mind. I think this is an interesting area of study. Shortcode language is our input into this media. But not the only one. Blogging, podcasting, rich media creative, anything Web 2.0 is designed to increase the content we are able to input/access/receive online. But here we are talking about multi-media. Does a hyperlinked word in a blog represent just the word we are reading in the context of that sentence or is it more because it functions as a conduit to another stream of information? What if it links to an audio or video file?

English does expand to accommodate this progress. I would be interested to know how many words are added vs. how many fall into functional disuse. Are we expanding or merely replace our modes of expression? And does one medium have greater weight than others (is a picture worth 1000 words)? Last year, a British professor translated the works of Shakespeare and Dickens into text messages to help students study for their exams. (need realPlayer)

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 8, 2006 at 10:35 pm

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