The Lingo Evolution

The English language has changed a great deal since origin and with technological advancements it is metamorphosising at a sharper and speedier rate

There are more ways than ever to communicate; email, text, facebook, twitter or even old school letters and with each form comes in its own unique format.

14th Century English was considered a strange form of communication, inferior to the preferred language of saints and scholars; Latin.

Academics thought English did not have the capacity to handle serious issues, however, 200 years later it was the principle language for discussing important matters.

Slang and colloquialisms, although sometimes seen as informal and frivolous, have played a huge part in the development of English from the poor people’s jibber jabber in the 1400’s to the flamboyant and intricate literature of Shakespearean times and beyond.

Like artists we have been moulding and shaping the verbal and written word to suit our societies, our more intimate communities and the privacy of our homes.

Some of the extravagant terms made infamous in the work of Shakespeare came from a Renaissance revolution of language that took place in the 16-17th Century.

Inkhorn terms; descriptive words derived from a foreign language, were created by scholars who wanted to expand the English Vocabulary.

The movement received quite a lot of criticism at the time. Many scholars felt it was forming words that were unnecessary and unusable and a second variation; Purism appeared attempting to simplify words.

Purism was used by Charles Dickens in the 19th Century, George Orwell in the 20th and some words from each movement are still used in various forms today.

Now, our Hiberno language; Irish English, is embracing word blends and abbreviations that are being permanently recorded in the definitive collection of language; the Dictionary.

The Experts

Angus Stevens of Oxford Dictionaries online says tracking the words in use today is highlighting some fascinating changes in the English language and this is being driven by amalgamated terms and tenses used colloquially by the younger generation.

NUIG English Lecturer Dr Francis McCormack says language takes shape on the basis of two principle functions: people are effectively lazy and want to communicate as concisely as possible and people want to express themselves; to be creative and unique.

Slang is a combination of these two functions and for that reason it will always be a part of our society and a fundamental factor in the shaping of our societies speech.

Director of UCC Linguistics Department Elisabeth O’Kasha agrees slang has an important role in society and our language.

“Slang has always been relevant, it is used in literature, drama and fiction.

“Some of it is short-lived; a flash in the pan, but some becomes mainstream, a part of our ever expanding vocabulary, and in this way slang is contributing to the future of English in all forms.”

Dr McCormack says language will never stand still and slang is the engine that drives the change.

“Language is always evolving and expanding. It is the same for all varieties, they start off lacking clarity and over time they become more concise and efficient.”

Embracing Slang

It does not always seem like slang is an important part of society and there are many slang terms will never make the dictionary.

However, there are many books that will never be published, many paintings that will never be sold and many songs that will never be sung.

This does not mean the innovative energy has gone to waste.

Like a lot of art, the true value is only recognised by the next generation and like many artists, the true joy is not found in acclaim, but in creation.

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