Is Language Evolving Again?

22 August, 2012 | Marketing | 3 min read.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” ‒Ludwig Wittgenstein


The origins of language

To communicate sets us apart from all other animals across the world and is the fundamental factor for our development from mere apes to the globally connected civilisations we live in each day.

A study conducted by Quentin D. Atkinson, a biologist at the University of Aukland, New Zealand, suggests that language originated only once and that that place was specific to South-western Africa approximately 60,000 years ago. This was roughly the same period as when humans began to voyage to Asia and Europe implying that the birth of language instigated a nomadic sense of adventure as groups.

Language as we know it today consists of words, but Atkinson focused on the basis of language – sounds or ‘phonemes’. He found, using mathematical algorithms that the further humans travelled from Africa the less phonemes were found. The modern English Language has 45 phonemes.

 

Those were the days

Remember back to the days of primary and secondary school. All those memories hopefully you treasure, although perhaps some you’d rather forget, and then there were English lessons – studying Shakespeare, your syntaxes and lexical fields, nouns and verbs.
Not to mention that nervy time when it was your turn to read aloud?

Research stated by the Los Angeles Times, shows that as the eye scans a sentence across the page, the brain continuously administers neural systems at a phenomenal speed. So quick in fact, that the difference between a good reader and a poor reader can be defined by a thousandth of a second. With such fine margins for error the process can easily become complicated, furthermore these neurological roots of reading problems may develop well before toddlers are ever introduced to the alphabet.

All in all there’s a lot there’s been a lot of development amongst our species time on Earth,  but we haven’t finished yet, not by a long shot. Language is still evolving and at a rapid rate.

 

An Evolution – the ‘Happening’ way of life

It doesn’t take much observation of modern life to see that the Western world, in particular, is a fast paced environment where everyone is ravenous for everything right now as it happens, and technology has simultaneously satisfied and catalysed our hunger for it.

We now live in a world where communication can occur instantly, hoorah! But this is causing a monumental change in the way not only we live our lives, but in how we communicate and more specifically in what we say, as organisations and consumers.

Abbreviations and acronyms are the trend of the day; quite literally, as a ‘Retweet’ here and a ‘share’ there, means word spreads so fast that a person, a group, an entire nation can quickly adopt new words into their ‘lexis’ that can even enter the International vernacular. Here’s a few that you may recognise:

  • To highlight that one’s day hasn’t gone quite to plan – ‘FML’
  • To depict quite hyperbolically that something has made one laugh – ‘LOL or ‘LMAO’
  • To be thankful – THX
  • To convey one will be back very soon – BRB
  • “I ate at the restaurant” = I 8 @ da rstRNt

Click Here & have a go at turning a simple sentence into a game of scrabble 

 

Even the combination of symbols and letters to cause new semantic inferences is becoming ever more popular originally by popular figures or celebrities and now organisations via the use of hashtags –

  • #yeswecan & #Obama2012 – President of the United States used social media to catalyse his campaign into power and while in power
  • #winning – a word Bob Maron elevated into popularity whilst raising Charlie Sheen’s, his client, profile to 7 million followers
  • #makeitcount – a recent campaign by Nike to harness inspirational discussion
  • #impossibleisnothing – Using Adidas’ tagline they are attempting to centralise discussions revolving around their brand

 

These behaviours are creeping into many forms of messages, whether via mobiles, a twitter feed, email or amongst friends at the pub.

And we’re all helplessly victim, or guilty of it… #forbetterorworse