What’s in it for me? Understand internet-induced changes to the English language.
Language is like a house constantly under construction. A home serves a vital purpose to its occupants, who make slight modifications to it over the years. Generations go by and these small changes accumulate. Eventually, the building may become unrecognizable to previous inhabitants. We could appreciate the extent of the changes by comparing the existing building with its old blueprints, and the same is true for language. While English students can generally just about understand the 400-year-old plays of Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written 600 years ago, is almost indecipherable without university-level language courses. The foundations are there, but it’s an entirely new structure. Centuries might seem like a reasonable timeframe for linguistic change, but a curious thing has happened in the last few decades: English is transforming far more rapidly. Why? Because internet. Our new online tools for communicating have ushered in a new era of linguistic alteration, where different rules for spelling, grammar and syntax can be coined and popularized in just a few years. In these readims, we’ll dive deep into internet culture, and spell out the linguistic changes the web has birthed. Along the way, you’ll learn why periods communicate passive aggression; who came up with the acronym “lol”; and why the meme is older than the internet.