No language remains static. While various cultures and ideas have prompted English to include new lingo throughout past centuries, however, some linguists express concern regarding the manner in which online culture affects English in the present day. With online college courses now becoming more of an established educational precedent, along with many other offline world institutions being transported online, the line between online interactions, education and proper use of English may even become blurred as well. As Internet speak bleeds into the language of the offline world, some argue that it not only alters the English language, but completely butchers it.
SMS–Short Message Service–has practical origins. Text messages have character limitations. Truncated versions of long words and abbreviated phrases save on characters and time, allowing individuals to say more in less space. For instance, “c u l8r” eats away less of a character count than “see you later,” and “rofl” takes considerably less time to type that “rolling on the floor laughing.” Websites like Twitter, known for setting a limit of 140 characters per “tweet” posted, further encourage the use of SMS-styled language.
As the online world has continued to grow, the English associated with the Internet altered less out of practicality and more out of fad. For example, “lolspeak” stemmed from the use of humorous captions on pictures of cats and other animals. This fad spawned an entire manner of communication built upon phrases like, “I can has cheezburger?” Similarly, “l337” or “leet” speak, commonly associated with online gamers and hackers, steps it up another notch by introducing new vocabulary and replacing many standard letters with ASCII characters. Words like “pwned” and “noob,” also spelled “n00b,” originated in the realm of online gaming.
Problems arise once younger generations rely completely on Internet English and neglect knowledge of formal Standard English. As Jesse Snyder explains in Pacific University’s Journal of Education, Community, and Values, reports of students using forms of Internet English in academic settings only seem to increase as more plug into online culture. Snyder writes, “This translates into more work for English teachers, and students who have a tougher time comprehending longer, more complicated words and sentences.” Individuals who do the vast majority of their communication in an online setting may have difficulty adjusting to communication in the real world.
Moreover, English is generally considered a global language. As English spreads, hybrid languages, such as Singlish and Hinglish, pop up. A hybrid language combines English with a country’s native language, creating forms of English that would not be understood by most native English speakers. As Mark Warschauer with the University of California explains, the Internet tends to promote informal hybrid languages over Standard English, creating disunity in the language as a whole.
As Internet use continues to grow at an increasingly rapid pace, the impact that Internet culture has on language–especially English–can be hard to keep up with. Many of the changes made by online culture are built upon deconstructing English, relying on purposeful misspellings and grammatical errors. This form of butchered English may not be harmful within the online realm that created it, but if measures are not taken to ensure that younger generations understand the grammatical rules they break, they might fail to understand the underlying structure of the language.
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