Don’t you find what’s happening to the written language compelling? It is changing before our eyes, even faster than spoken languages change, and it is impossible to tell what written English will look like in a couple of decades time.
I am not convinced that standards are falling which is the easy and elitist assumption to make. Sure, printed English used to be grammatically correct and impeccably spelled, (unless it was printed by the Gruniad). But this was not because of the journalists’ English teachers. Newspaper offices had shelves of books on correct English to guide their journalists, and even then their writing would go through the ruthless filter of the sub-editor and the compositor, who had books of their own to guide them on the presentation of written English.
Web 2.0 axiomatically provides you with unedited and unfiltered access to what people want to say to you but, as I’ve said, it exposes their illiteracy.
The proportion of literate to illiterate texts we see has changed. We have returned to the Medieval directness of communication not seen since Caxton and the printing press. Now, what you see is what I wrote.
It is going to be interesting to see whether literacy is more valued because it is more needed, and if the written language will take on variances similar to those in the spoken language. There is a doctoral thesis waiting for funding on the subject of txtspk and l33t as dialects.
People already have different voices and standards for instant messaging (where speed is of the essence), for discussion forums (where language is informal and urgent), and for blogs (which are more like show-case pieces). But the written language is changing in other ways, <example purpose=”to illustrate the point”> the use of pseudo-tags in emails, posts or other text </example>. This crosses over. I know of several people who include stage directions in their conversations. *smiles whimsically*
I am trying really hard not to use the word “meme” here.
I guess I am curious about three things:
- Will literacy be more highly valued by cyber-skiving kids?
- Will the general standard of literacy be driven down by the sheer volume of illiterate texts we expose ourselves to?
- To what extent will the written language take on features previously exclusive to spoken languages such as dialect and voice?
Oh to be a linguist now 2.0’s here.