THE LANGUAGE OF THE DIGITAL AGE
The key word in the paper is ‘language’ but the one that changes the direction of study from its traditional view is ‘digital’. In a broad sense, language is a means of communication among people. But the communication that is discussed at hand refers to a specific type, that of technology, innovation, and rapid growth. ‘Digital’ describes electronic technology that generates, stores, and processes data. Nowadays social media and digital communication platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Chat, Viber, Whatsapp, or email, remove the use of hand gestures, facial expressions, volume, pitch, and intonation. This is where emoticons step in, allowing online conversation to become easier, more effective, and more natural. The feeling can be expressed by a single character-sized graphic. Although they come with new technology, the language that is used in them has deep evolutionary origin, characterised by its inherently cooperative nature. Abbreviations, number homophones, and various symbols are used in poetry still in 19 century (Bombaugh in the “Essay to Miss Catherine Jay”). An interesting case is the origin of the abbreviation OK as a jokey misspelling of ‘all correct’ in early times as well as the contemporary use of the acronyms OMG and LOL, for example. Language emerges, changes, and continues to evolve in contexts of use. While this is a natural process, new technology is advancing the range and means available for interpersonal interaction. This is both fascinating and fun, especially for the young generation. The paper investigates texting: its origin, meaning, and characteristic features. It shows how to interpret the mix of abbreviations, acronyms, shortenings, emoticons, and symbols. It is a language similar to that once used by those sending telegraphs. It is just a simplified version of language. Even a single letter, digit, or sign alone or in combinations can replace a phoneme, a syllable, or a whole word. The paper questions whether the language of the digital age is more like writing or speech. Will typing replace speech or will our speech adapt to incorporate these textual changes? Finally the paper proves that although language itself changes slowly, the Internet fosters the process of these changes. The argument is supported by the British linguist David Crystal (2008) in his book Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, “The main effect of the Internet on language has been to increase the expressive richness of language, providing the language with a new set of communicative dimensions that haven’t existed in the past.”
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