The Evolution of Language

Language, in its essence, is an ever-morphing creature. The language we speak today, has no doubt evolved over time.

We know that language may change as a result of social or political pressures. Invasion, colonisation, immigration or when a new invention comes along, a new noun is born to accurately describe the new ‘thing’. Ironically, in these situations the likelihood is that the name given to the ‘thing’ is likely to include or be derived from one of history’s oldest languages – Latin!

Language can also change very subtly whenever speakers come into contact with each other. No two individuals speak identically; people from different areas clearly speak differently, but even within the same small community there are variations according to a speaker’s age, gender, ethnicity and social and educational background.

An example of this is Cockney Rhyming Slang. Cockney Rhyming Slang may not be used today as much as it once was, due to the diversity of the ethnicities of the inhabitants of East London, but although it still exists (and is still used today), a new ‘Slang’ has recently been invented by younger generations. Even the ‘original’ has been modified to fit the modern world we live in.

Technological advances in social media have provided the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary with a recent influx of new words. Ten years ago, nobody had heard of being ‘fraped’ or ‘skyping’ anyone. I remember a time when nobody had a ‘twiddly’ or a ‘remote’ to change the channel on the TV. A ‘text’ was a written work ten years ago, not a means of communication.

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And what about the ‘language’ of texting? Some argue that the abbreviations are spoiling the English language, with the omission of punctuation and abbreviation, while other see it as another example of the evolution of language.

There are some who believe that a language should be fixed. Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels is noted for saying, “Language should be fixed forever, frozen in time, and protected from the ravages of fashion and social trends.”

But is language inanimate? Surely as society changes, the world and its’ inhabitants evolve, shouldn’t the forms of communication evolve with it? As beautiful as the language of Latin is, I’ve yet to walk along a High Street anywhere, and be greeted with, “Salve” or, “Mane bonum” from a passer-by.

What do you think? Let us know!