How The Internet Is Speeding Up The Evolution Of English

Most speakers already know how online life has changed the language. What many may not be aware of is the growing effect of hybrids such as "Hinglish" and "Konglish" that, pre-Internet, were confined to specific groups.

What's the Latest Development?

With non-native English speakers outnumbering native speakers worldwide, and with more of these speakers coming online every day, linguists say that the evolution of the language is happening faster and in strange and unexpected ways. Most notably, they're observing how English hybrids that normally were contained within a particular ethnic or national group are migrating and co-mingling online, particularly on social networks like Facebook. For example, the use of "Hinglish" -- a combination of Hindu, Punjabi, Urdu, and English used primarily by South Asians -- is now so widespread that it's being taught to British officials and built into some smartphone apps.

What's the Big Idea?

It's already been established that English is the language of commerce and business, but the changes being seen online reflects an even larger shift in its use. Computational linguist Robert Munro says, "[T]here is a special commercial and social role for English driven by modern forms of entertainment...English has taken its place as the world's lingua franca, but it's not pushing out other languages." Linguistics professor Naomi Baron says, "On the internet, all that matters is that people can communicate - nobody has a right to tell them what the language should be."

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