Chris Harman. The Language of the Internet


 The Language Revolution


In the following essay I intend to outline the main new styles and possibilities of language that have been brought about through Internet technology. As with any area that requires specialist knowledge, the internet brings with it its own jargon and new words. ‘Internet’ in itself is not a word that would have been recognised fifty years ago. Likewise, terms such as ‘modem’ and ‘broadband’ are new words that have circulated into everyday language surprisingly quickly.

It can be said that chat rooms contribute more to the changing of language than any other technological medium. Unlike domains such as email and message boards, there are very few expectations in terms of language use; no prestige is associated with Standard English. In a sense, anything goes. Initialisms are common e.g. ‘lol’ (laugh out loud), ‘brb’ (be right back) and ‘rofl’ (roll on floor laughing). It is commonplace for words to be spelt incorrectly in order to make them quicker to type, such as ‘u’ (you) and ‘r’ (are). In chat rooms, people often type words how they sound instead of how they should be spelt. It is normal to see things like ‘ryt’ (right), ‘hu’ (who) and ‘wot’ (what). It is hoped by many that this trend for incorrect spelling will die out over time. It does suggest however, that in future the English language may return to a more phonetic based system than the code used at present. 

Online gaming has brought about its own sets of words and rules in regards to language. One of the more famous instances of a new word being coined through the online gaming communities is the term ‘pwned’, a misspelling of ‘owned’. ‘Owned’ had been a popular word used to convey dominance over an online opponent, as in ‘I owned you in that last match’. ‘Pwned’ was a common misspelling of this, due to the ‘p’ and ‘o’ keys being close to each other on the keyboard. It became a popular mistake and is now the preferred term for many people within gaming circles. Another example of a new term being created through online gaming is ‘noob’. This stems from the word ‘newbie’, meaning somebody who is new to a particular field. Gamers have shortened this word and spelt it more phonetically. This suggests that the gamers have made it their own word, a word that non-gamers are not supposed to use or understand. Further evidence of this is apparent when some of the more experienced players substitute the o’s for zeros, so the word reads ‘n00b’. A possible reason for this could be that by making the word even more difficult to understand, they are establishing an even wider gap between themselves and the new users. 

Email has been described as one of the more traditional of the new wave of communication devices. Typically, an email follows the same stylistic pattern as a letter; the recipient is addressed at the beginning, the content of the message follows and the name or signature of the sender appears at the end. A reason for keeping some of these more well known features could be that, unlike chat rooms, emails are likely to be sent to people in authority positions, such as bosses or lecturers. As a result, language use is likely to be more formal or conventional. Also, sending emails is an asynchronous task, meaning that you may be more likely to spend time considering your use of language, as opposed to the synchronous world of chat rooms in which there are more time constraints. 

David Crystal has stated that we are on the “brink of the biggest language revolution ever.” This may well be true, as it is difficult to imagine any other medium, at least in recent times, being as all-encompassing and well used as the internet. The young generation today is the first generation to fully embrace this technology and all the language changes and manipulations that come with it. Over the next few decades, it will become the norm for everybody to use the internet regularly, either for work or play (or both) and thus the amount of domains and language deviations will continue to grow at an enormous rate. With this in mind, it is inconceivable to think that the internet will not have a huge effect on the way we use language in the near future. It must be remembered that in 2008, the internet is still in its infancy; we’ve only seen the beginning of its powers.

Copyrighted material




  The Language Revolution

  Internet Language Rules

  A Case Study



  The Language of the Internet

  English Reasserts Its Status




Site Map || Feedback || About || Links

Copyright Alex Chubarov 1066-2066

All Rights Reserved