Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Internet fragments and new language

Just a quick round-up of recent articles about language...

Internet language and the prevalence of very short "fragments" of language are discussed in this New York Times article by Teddy Wayne. He considers how the constraints of Twitter often lead to compressed grammar and the growth of what he sees as questions being formed by simply adding question marks to statements, or just one word tweets (like "This" or "Adorable") appearing. Worth a look for both Language and Mode and Language Change.

The innovations associated with Multicultural London English (MLE) continue apace. We've already seen some interesting discourse-pragmatic features such as quotatives and tag questions along with phonological features, but it's grammar that's focused on in this piece by Jenny Cheshire on the Linguistics Research Digest, and specifically the appearance of a new pronoun "man" (as in the example, "(1) didn’t I tell you man wanna come see you . I don’t date your friends I date you (Alex)"). Man's been hearing this for bare time in south London, but it's good to see it getting a closer look from the team who have done so much to put MLE on the map.

This Guardian article by Gary Nunn offers a fascinating take on different views about slang, as well as the ways in which slang is used by different groups, including older people. Tony Thorne, one of the country's top slang experts (along with the mighty Jonathon Green) makes the point that "Slang, considered objectively, is not a defective or substandard form of language, but one that creatively mobilises all the technical potential of the English language". So, we get to see granny-slang, yoof-slang, generational and international undercurrents influencing the language we use and an age-old favourite like cool.