The year is 2018. Two thousand and eighteen years since, as much of the western world would say, Jesus lived on earth. We mark [track, record, tally] our years using the Christian model [way, guide, style, custom], although I cannot give a reason more satisfactory [fulfilling, sufficient, solid] than that we have done it this way for many centuries now; simply stated, it is too convenient [easy, conducive, agreeable] for us to change it.
I will begin with my name. I am [I call myself, I am known as] Joseph. While this name pleases me enough, I did not choose it. My mother gave it to me when she bore [birthed, gave birth to] me.
At the moment [point in time] of writing this sentence, I am almost twenty-five years old [have almost twenty-five years, am almost twenty-five years of age, have nearly completed twenty-five years of life]. A quarter-century. One score and five years. Five times five years. I am, even now, a young man in the eyes of many other people.
I live in [reside in, inhabit, dwell in, abide in] the northeastern United States of America, a band of many smaller states [lands, areas, regions] united [made one, bound together] under a broader federal [national, country-wide] government. Though we have and fill fifty states, we call ourselves one American nation [people, folk, populace] in the same way the people of the state of France call themselves the French nation.
I speak English. And, oh, is this the point [matter, question, quandary]!
I speak what the world knows in this age [period, era, expanse of time] as “American English.” One would distinguish [separate, differentiate, make distinct] this variety [kind, style, form] from that spoken in, say, the United Kingdom — “British English.” Really, the term “the English language” means all varieties of it in any place in any period in the history of the language. These “varieties” are often called “dialects,” but I have a personal distrust [problem, gripe, issue, distaste] in the treatment [handling, usage] and accuracy [truthfulness, veracity, faithfulness, exactness] of the word. For the sake of smooth reading, however, I will not dispute [contest, take issue with, argue against] it more than I have already in other writings of mine.
So, I return to my point: I speak and write in English.
But I ask [enquire, pray, beg]: do you understand me?
I continue [proceed, go on] with this piece [work, composition] under the following assumptions [things taken as truth]:
- That you, the reader, also speak, read and write in English.
- That you are reading this piece some great length of time in the future — many, many years, I would prefer, if its purpose [point, intent] is to be fulfilled.
- That the English you use in your age is different enough from mine to warrant [call for] a composition asking you, “Do you understand me?“
I am writing a sort of language time capsule, in other words. I wish to write a piece that a user of English several centuries forward can read without too much effort [strain, trying, energy] of the mind and without consulting [referring to, getting assistance from] a dictionary, thesaurus or any other book that would clarify [make clear or plain] a possible foreign [strange, odd, otherworldly] word or phrase.
This task I undertake is proving [turning out, showing] to be as challenging [difficult, tricky] as I had foreseen [expected, predicted, anticipated].
As I knew would happen, I am struggling to find the middle ground between my writing being foreign and my writing being too boring [dull, monotonous, uninteresting]. It is true that I could reduce [bring down, break apart] the vocabulary [full collection of the words I use] in this piece to the same plain ten nouns, verbs and adjectives, but no one would want to read the outcome of that. There would be no spirit [life, living force, vigour, excitement] or character [uniqueness, individuality] in it.
Still, I must be mindful of my choice of words. A word I might use as naturally as I breathe air might be very strange or old-sounding, if not completely unknown to you, hundreds of years from now. It is for this reason that I have been interrupting [breaking up, stopping the action of] my sentences with bracketed words and phrases that clarify what I think may confound [confuse, baffle, trip up, be beyond one’s understanding] a reader in the distant future, as I do twice in this very sentence.
Most words I use in this piece I presume [expect with great confidence or surety] not to change in meaning or frequency of use much in the next several centuries, and so I do not feel a need to clarify them. Such words include:
- pronouns like you and me and them
- simple nouns like year, time, way, and name
- simple verbs like think, go, know, speak and give
- simple adjectives like big, young, strange, happy and fast
- words dealing with parts of language itself like word, phrase and sentence
Because understanding that last group of words is necessary [needed, essential] to understand this entire composition, I will define [give the meaning of] them now. In all likelihood, I do not need to do this, but I am taking no chances [risks, gambles] here.
- Letter – A, B, C, and so on
- Word – grouping of letters to form one single item of a thought — eighteen in this very definition of word
- Phrase – group of two or more words with its own semantic identity, like go on and for the most part
- Sentence – a complete thought using one or more words, like “Go!” and “The man threw the ball.“
Then, there are some words that might seem plain and yet I have chosen to clarify for fear that the reader take the wrong meaning. The word chance above is a fairly common one, but in my age it can mean any of the following:
- “opportunity,” as in, “I did not have the chance to meet with him.“
- “likelihood,” as in, “What is the chance you will change your mind?“; sometimes seen in the plural form the chances
- “arrangement of fate or fortune,” as in, “Do you, by any chance, have a pen I can borrow?“
- “risk or hazard or venture,” as in the phrase take a chance
As I made clear in the sentence in which I used chance, I meant the last one, but I could not be sure that the reader knew this.
I confess: I did not receive a formal education in linguistics. As of writing this piece, I never have gone to a school, college or university to learn the science from a certified [official, sanctioned, credible] instructor or practitioner.
However, I have passed uncountable hours of private study with what is perhaps the most invaluable [of immeasurable value or worth] resource in my age: the Internet. The Internet, a worldwide electronic network of information (which, I would wager [bet, imagine, guess], will exist [live on, be around] long after I publish this work), has imparted [given, handed over to, provided with] me a rich, rounded knowledge and understanding of the principles [rules, pillars, truths, tenets] of the discipline [science, practise, study] of linguistics; therefore I call myself a linguist.
As a linguist, I find one thing to be certain: language does change.
Now, if I were to stay within the realm [area, bounds, governance] of certainty, I would end this piece here. The more I write, the more I leave to chance my language to be misunderstood by you. But to end here is to betray [turn against, break fidelity to, renounce loyalty to] my idea of completely filling a time capsule for you to discover [come upon, find] later on. I should, at the very least, comment on the way I use language now, in the year 2018.
And I will. But, before I do, I must begin by making a clear distinction:
— Writing and speech are NOT the same. —
Humans happened upon a need to write as a means to record [preserve, keep] what has been said or spoken.
But, for the single person, his private writings seldom [rarely, not often] match [are identical to, mirror, reflect] his manner of speech with a friend or stranger.
To converse [speak without preparation with another person or group of persons, make discourse] is to exchange [give, provide, trade, impart] thoughts upon the very instant [moment, stound, precise time].
When we write, we have all the time in the world to word our sentences and arrange [set up, organise] our disclosure [revealing, telling] of information.
My point is that the way we write is likely better worded and better paced and more grammatically tidy than the way we speak and is, therefore, a poor [bad, subpar, flawed, insufficient] indicator [guide, way of telling] of how we use language when we are in our most relaxed and natural states.
I tend to be [am habitually, am by nature, am wont to be] slow and careful with my speech, and friends and acquaintances often tell me that I use words that are bookish and unusual for casual conversation (I would say by 21st century American English standards). But even I fall short of making my written and spoken words always agree.
Here are a few examples of what I consider [think, would call, view as] some of my more flowery, more potent [powerful, moving, poignant] compositions:
“As much as I try to resist the waves and currents of the thought-ocean engulfing me, it would be nothing short of falsehood to deny that I am a product of my era. I am a slave to the conventions and leanings of my time, perhaps with the occasional moment of profound clarity, and sometimes my writing will likewise transcend this life sentence of bondage.“
“Words […] serve as an allegory of a sort for their masters, the human species. Their evolutions are proof of where man exhibited great folly — and also where he showed poetic brilliance […] To study words is to study human thought — and to study their scars is to examine our own image through the ages.“
“As I pulled each item from the box, I was given pause, just as I knew would happen. I drank in the neatness and preservation of each note and picture. I admired the beautiful simplicity of my personal collection — mostly tokens of the modesty and mundanity of my latter years of high school, anointed with stories romantic and dramatic.“
Now here is an example of the way I use language in a conversation. The following is an electronic text message I sent to a friend. Almost no forethought went into this description of a walk I enjoyed one afternoon:
“On my walk this afternoon I was startled by a couple ducks in a secluded residential suite parking lot. It was a male and a female very close together. I walked hardly a foot next to them without noticing them. One of them made a very relaxed and soft quack and they both looked at me and didn’t budge an inch.“
Rather plain, would you not say? Still, though, it is writing and therefore lacks the pauses and many of the imperfections found in natural speech. Below I will include a transcription of a video recording of me from my final stage performance as a student at my college. In the recording, I talk about my time with the school before I introduce a song which I then perform — meaning this is completely unprepared, natural speech I used in the year 2016.
” […] So, this song is called “Dear Friends.” Er, it’s a song from, er, Queen’s third album Sheer Heart Attack from 1974. It’s a nice, little piano ballad. Er, it’s, er, kinda my farewell from here, my last time on this stage as a student.“
No, it is no “Gettysburg Address,” and I likely was more concerned with [worried about, focussed on, preoccupied with] my forthcoming vocal and piano performance than with dazzling the audience [spectators, watchers, patrons] with a rousing [exciting, lively] introduction, but this transcription does show that my speech does not always meet the standards to which I hold myself when I write. This rule, I would argue, is true of anybody with a societal upbringing and schooling background similar to mine.
Even the works of the revered [deeply honoured, respected, highly esteemed] poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, show a disparity [inequity, difference, separation] in the way he used the English language. While his sonnets and verses often are dense with metaphors, allusions and symbols, usually so much that the average [typical, everyday, standard, ordinary] reader in the 21st century cannot make sense of them, the Bard’s prose, by comparison, is rather straight and to-the-point and has not so many poetic embellishments [pretty additions, ornateness, flourishes]. As for the way he spoke, there is no way to be sure, but it is probable that he did not talk in poetic metre. He likely spoke quite plainly — or, at least plainly by 16th and 17th century standards.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the five quotations above — as well as this whole piece you are reading — are my words. They represent [stand for, show, betoken] only the way that I, Joseph, use English. Do not think that they stand for anyone else, necessarily. Do not read them and think, “Oh, this must be how EVERYONE in 2018 wrote and spoke.” No. Every person in my time speaks and writes in his own distinct style — following similar conventions, yes, but not without adding his own devices [techniques, ideas, patterns] — in the same way no two people in YOUR time write and speak precisely the same way.
Upon further thought, I realise [suddenly understand] that you, however far in the future you might exist, may not examine [study, look at, review] the work of Shakespeare as closely or as ardently [hotly, intensely, passionately] as we do in the 21st century. You may not even know the name at all. To me, he is very old. He died over four hundred years ago now, and yet his work continues to be taught and studied and performed, even with the widening language gap. If you are reading this in the year 2318, 2418 or 2518, then I am about as old to you as William Shakespeare is to me and the people of my era. For aught that I know, there could be in your era a longing to study so reverently the work of those from the 21st century (or 19th or 20th). I wonder who will be your Shakespeare. Charles Dickens, perhaps? Edgar Allen Poe? Mark Twain? J. R. R. Tolkien? Ernest Hemingway? Ray Bradbury? Dare I mention my contemporaries J.K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin — or even Stephen King? Then again, we do still study Geoffrey Chaucer, who predates Shakespeare by over two hundred years, so the latter may still be a prominent [stand-out, key, important] literary figure for you, if a bit more antiquated [old, archaic].
But if you think MY English is antiquated, then look at this brief sample of Old English:
Se wisa wer timbrode his hus ofer stan.
Þa com þær micel flod, and þær bleowon windas, and ahruron on þæt hus, and hit ne feoll: soþlice, hit wæs ofer stan getimbrod.
— from the New Testament parable “The Man Who Built His House on Sand”
Completely foreign, right? Save for [ignoring, with the exception of] maybe two or three words like and and on and his, this is unreadable to anyone of the English-speaking world in my age who has not studied Old English, or “Anglo-Saxon,” as it is sometimes called. In fact, this would have been unintelligible [not understandable, incomprehensible] by the 14th century. But that was English in those days. That was how it looked a thousand years ago.
Here is some Middle English:
These ben þe poyntȝ and þe articles ordeyned of the bretheren of seint Katerine in the cite of Londone, the whiche is founden in the chirche of seint Botulf with-oute Aldrichesgate.
The furste poynt is this, þat whan a brother or a suster schal be resceyued, þat þey schul be swore vpon a book to þe brotherhede, for to holde vp and meyntene þe poyntȝ and the articles þat be write after folwynge, eche man to his power, sauynge his estat; and þat euerich brother and suster, in tokenynge of loue, charite, and pes, atte resceyuynge schule kusse eueri other of þo þat be þere.
— part of a document from the 14th or 15th century¹
You likely can make out a few more words in this — and perhaps make good guesses about other ones if you have a sharp eye. The common people in my age can, at least. What we in the 21st century may find to be somewhat similar to our English may bear even less similarity to yours; this Middle English text could be hardly [barely, not much] less foreign to you than the Old English was.
Some Early Modern English (Shakespeare’s era):
The English speach doth still encroche vpon it [Cornish], and hath driuen the same into the vttermost skirts of the shire. Most of the Inhabitants can no word of Cornish; but very few are ignorant of the English.
— Richard Carew, The Survey of Cornwall (1602)
To a reader and speaker of English in the 21st century, this looks even closer to the language he knows today. Besides a few words with unfamiliar spellings (i.e., speach = speech, encroche = encroach, vttermost = outermost), someone in my era can, at the very least, read the whole thing. He may not understand precisely its meaning, but he can read it without too much trouble.
Finally, some Modern English:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
— final paragraph of one of the several drafts of the Gettysburg Address, penned and spoken by United States President Abraham Lincoln, 1863
To the English-speaking world of my era, this looks fairly — well, modern. From the first word to the very last, we can read this passage. And, though Lincoln uses some rather old-fashioned grammatical constructions, the meaning is still clear as day to us, over a century and a half later.
Now, I am not so foolish as to believe that you, in your age, necessarily call these periods of English what we, in our age, call them. These are names we have given them from our perspective (18th century onward) — therefore, we call our own “Modern English.” As the history of English lengthens, the names of its periods may shift. To you, my English could be similar enough to what we call “Middle English” and different enough from yours that you group our period with Middle. You might know “Middle English” as lasting from around the year 1100 to some time in the 20th century, the beginning of the electronic, digital age. It depends [hangs, hinges, is dependent] largely on how far in the future you are.
All this I say to come to my final point: what is YOUR English like?
This is a different game entirely. Linguists have a hard time as it is telling how a language was wielded in the past; to make guesses about how it will look and sound in the future is virtually impossible. There are too many variables [factors, potential ways of changing] to consider [account for, think about]. Some would even call such an endeavour [hope, dream, mission, goal] foolish.
One linguist predicted that, after two hundred years of separation, American English and British English would have changed so much that their speakers no longer would be able to understand each other. Well, as of the time of composition, it has been nearly two hundred and forty-one years since the United States of America declared [announced, claimed, asserted] their independence from Great Britain, and over four hundred since the first British settlers came to the North American continent, and I have no trouble speaking to or understanding a Briton.
Perhaps, in a similar fashion [way, style], I am making an ass of myself in believing that a reader several centuries beyond me might find parts of this piece incomprehensible [not understandable, lacking sense]. You may very well have no difficulty at all nor have any need for these pace-ruining word clarifications I provide so often inside my text. At the same time, you may indeed find yourself puzzled here and there. There is no way I can be certain of either possible reality, nor could I in a thousand lifetimes guess correctly about the state [condition, quality] of the English language in your age.
But it is fun [amusing, enjoyable, entertaining] to try.
You might have noticed [taken note of, seen] that I have not used a single contraction yet in this composition (unless it was part of a quotation). There is a good reason for this. Contractions, throughout our language’s history, have had a habit [tendency, inclination] of changing and falling out of use. To make a contraction is to combine [fuse, bring together] two or more words by leaving out letters and syllables and replacing them with apostrophes ( ‘ ). We do this in writing to reflect the hasty way we speak the words. Common ones in my era include:
- I’m (I am)
- you’ve (you have)
- he’s (he is)
- we’d (we would, we had)
- they’re (they are)
- there’s (there is)
- isn’t (is not)
- can’t (can not)
- wouldn’t (would not)
Now here are some we do NOT use anymore:
- cham (ich am) — ich is a Middle English form of the prounoun I
- chave (ich have)
- th’art (thou art) — thou used to be our you for addressing a single person with whom one is familiar; now survives mainly in religious texts
- ’tis (it is) — still recognisable as an archaism, but replaced by it’s
- ’twas (it was) — same as above, although it survives in fossilised expressions like, “‘Twas the night before Christmas.“
- in’t (in it) — popular in Shakespeare’s day
- is’t (is it) — also popular in that time
Contractions are not going anywhere. I say with full confidence that you have them in your time as well. Here are some that are rather new in my time — perhaps they will be commonplace and even accepted as proper English after a couple hundred years:
- not’ve (not have) — as in, “I would not’ve done it if I had known you would be so upset.“
- I’d’ve (I would have) — as in, “I’d’ve let you if you had only asked first.“
- wouldn’t’ve (would not have)
- I’ll’ve (I will have) — as in, “I‘ll’ve been to every continent once we land in Europe.“
- you’d’ve (you would have
- y’all’d’ve (you all would have) — y’all is already treated as its own element, meaning you all — frowned upon by prudes who think it a corruption from the American South
Maybe y’all and ain’t (am/are/is/have/has not) will be fully standard by your time as well.
Next and more difficult is the problem of words.
As you know quite well by now, I am choosing my words with great care. Every word I use must pass through a series of gates, if you will. They are:
- Does it satisfy precisely the meaning or idea I wish to say?
- Does it have only one, clear primary meaning — or one that is nearly impossible to confuse with other senses in its given context?
- Has its meaning stayed more or less the same over the course of the word’s existence in English?
If the answer is “yes” to all three gates, then I leave the word alone and move on.
If the answer is “no” to any of them, then I either find a different word or I underline it and immediately clarify the word with synonymous words and phrases or with approximations [words that are close enough].
Sometimes I do not clarify potentially foreign words because I trust the context to clarify them for me.
I believe I have done well so far, but foretelling how future English-speakers will use words is tricky.
The most obvious reason is that their meanings can change over time.
The word nice has enjoyed a remarkable [noteworthy, extraordinary] journey through meanings in the many centuries it has been in the language. In the past, this little adjective has meant everything from “ignorant” to “foolish” to “stupid” to “inexperienced” to “naïve” to “petty” to “small” to “childlike” to “simple” to “quaint” to “pleasant” to “kind.”
Today, the term nice guy, a man who is outwardly agreeable to or respectful of women, seems to be taking on an ironic secondary meaning — of a man who is NOT respectful of or pleasant to women — by the idea that he would fake or pretend to be such as a means of gaining the chance to have sexual intercourse with them.
I could be wrong about this, but perhaps the word nice will continue to evolve, as it has so much already. Perhaps in your era it means something like “disrespectful,” or “unkind,” or “ill-mannered,” or “rude,” or “insidious,” or “pretentious; given to pretending.”
The word nice demonstrates [shows by example] also how much a seemingly simple word can change — and why I feel so strongly about clarifying the words I use in this piece.
Then we have words that replace others.
There have been several words for “living creature” in the history of English.
In Old English, the word was deor. This is the word that became deer. Slowly, the meaning shifted to mean the creature with antlers. The word in Old English for what we would today call a “deer” was heorot — which became the word hart.
In Middle English, the preferred word for “living creature” was beste (beast).
Now, in my Modern English, the most common word for this is animal.
Words simply die sometimes.
It has not been since the Old English period that we called a library a boc-hus — literally a “book-house.” Nor is a male human anymore called a wer, for he is always a man — unless we speak of a werewolf, or a “man-wolf.” Nor do we use the unnecessarily long word esperance when hope will do.
How am I to know that words today like ardent, embellish and disparity will live on? They are not the most common words to hear on an American street. Can I reasonably expect them to survive when there are many other, more popular words for each?
Then, sometimes, words are dug up and revived.
Blithe, meaning “happy” or “joyful” or “carefree” was rare after the 15th century and virtually dead by the beginning of the 20th. The playwright, Noël Coward, reintroduced it to the English-speaking world when his play, Blithe Spirit, opened in the 1940s.
You may remember my inclusion of the obscure word stound earlier in the piece when I was clarifying the noun instant. Almost nobody in my era has even seen the word stound, let alone knows what it means. It is simply not used anymore. It would make even the most learned people say, “What?” if I were to speak it. It is an obsolete word for “a brief stretch of time; a moment.” But who is to say that stound will not be in use several centuries from now? Who is to say that stound never will be revived like blithe was?
Who is to say that ANY English word ever is truly dead?
Hyphenated words must stay as such for many years before people will accept them without the hyphen ( – ). Very common words like today, tonight and birthday used to be written to-day, to-night and birth-day.
With this knowledge, I expect many compound words that take hyphens in the 21st century, such as half-jokingly, heart-wrenching and grade-school, will be embraced [welcomed, accepted heartily] one day without their hyphens.
I can make educated guesses about words. The future of English grammar, however, is a bit hazier [cloudier, foggier, harder to make out].
That said, though, I do have some commentary about several specific matters of grammar.
First is that of whom; I fear that this pronoun will disappear in the next few centuries. It is hardly seen in writing anymore, much less heard in speech, where who is greatly (and grammatically wrongly) preferred. It is an object pronoun used in the same way him and her and them are used. Compare:
“You sold your car to him?” vs. “You sold your car to he?“
“You sold your car to whom?” vs. “You sold your car to who?“
Next is that of the subjunctive mood — used to express a hope, wish, fear, request, command or a conditional clause. This, I am afraid, also will disappear before too long. When using the English subjunctive, the verb stays in the infinitive (unconjugated form). Examine the following:
“I desire only that she return my affections.“
“It is asked that he leave the restaurant.“
“The event will be held outside, whether it be raining or shining.”
And a sentence I used earlier in this very piece:
“[…] and yet I have chosen to clarify for fear that the reader take the wrong meaning.“
The subjunctive may also, in time, be phased out from conveying [carrying, supplying] a hypothetical situation, as in the following common constructions:
“If I were you…“
“Well, if it were me…“
Or, perhaps a sentence like this:
“Were it so easy.“
Set phrases and idioms like as it were, however, may yet persist [remain, live on] in your time.
Last is that of using the pronoun they to refer to [indicate, mean] one person. This is a topic of some heat in the decade of the 2010s. While pedants [those concerned with trivial or minor pursuits of correctness] will insist that they never be used for a single person, the fact is that the pronoun has been used this way for several centuries now — to refer to a hypothetical, unknown or unspecified person. Very recently, though, there has been a push by cultural progressives [forward thinkers] for society to accept “singular they” as a preferred personal pronoun, as many people in our modern 21st century are beginning to find themselves outside the gender binary — the social construct of being of either male or female disposition (NOT of possessing either type of genitalia — that is how we define sex) — and to seek a pronoun that implies neither man nor woman (i.e., not he or she); hence they.
I believe that, while both of these movements are being met with some resistance, language will find a way to make the change, as it always has done. “Singular they” may be so natural in your era that there is never any question or second thought about using it.
Other parts of grammar, such as syntax [word order, grammatical arrangement of a sentence], verb tenses and conjugation, are more complicated [complex, convoluted, involved, elaborate] and thus harder to speak on, so I will not do so.
In the matter of predicting how your English will look and sound, I have yet to address (though I did mention it once much earlier) one blatant [obvious, stick-out] complication: the Internet.
I presume I do not need to teach you everything about this technology [advancement, device, machine, work], as I trust that it will be alive and well for a great many years. Perhaps, though, I am blinded by the natural arrogance [elitist attitude, smugness, haughtiness] of existing in what anyone would call his own modern, up-to-date society — perhaps humans will create in the future a faster, more powerful, more tangible [of essence, touchable] means of communicating with each other over vast [large, stretching] distances. Perhaps the Internet means nothing to you — perhaps you have something better in your age.
But, then again, I have used the Internet both to compose this work and to publish it. This is what we call in my age a “blog post.” Blog is a shortened form of the term web log, the “Web” being the “World Wide Web,” which many people wrongly (but understandably) confuse with the Internet. As this work is a product of and for the Internet, and as you are reading this because you are on and familiar with the Internet, I will take off my philosopher hat and return to my point.
The Internet has made most modern languages ripe for study. Users all over the world have found ways to shorten words and expressions and phrases in all their languages. In a span of fewer than thirty years, slang specific to the Internet has popped up, changed and fallen out of use. To put it briefly, this worldwide network of communication is making languages evolve quite rapidly.
Older English speakers might maintain [hold as true, argue, claim] that these evolutions are harmful and that younger generations’ English has decayed [decreased in quality/structure, deteriorated, crumbled, atrophied] because of the Internet.
At the same time, the Internet is also responsible for [behind, answerable for, the reason for] a convergence [bringing together, homogenisation, unification] of English.
Because of the lightning-fast travel of information and language on the Internet, the English used around the world is becoming more unified. Internet users are becoming familiar all at once with all the same new words and slang and ideas. The generations that have matured [grown up] with the Internet, plus those that will do the same in the future, across the world have and will have a unique “Internet English,” or “Internet-speak,” through which to write (and, to a lesser extent [reach, degree], speak) to each other. It is their variety of English. And possibly the future world’s English.
But this is but a symptom [sign, showing, manifestation] of a larger process [action, development, unfolding, occurrence] — one that has been affecting [changing] the language since the days of Middle English.
That process is standardisation.
Since William Caxton introduced the printing press to England in 1476 has the country been promoting a national language standard. Official [legal, of government] documents were printed in London, the seat of power of the state, so the English from the city and surrounding areas began to take on a sort of social prestige [height, status, superiority, dominance], while regional variation came to be “nonstandard.” Other Englishes needed to conform to [become more like] the budding standard.
It is thanks [due, owing] to this emergence [growth, sprouting, coming out] of a language standard that English has not changed much since the 16th century, the Early Modern English period. Or, rather, change since that time is much smaller and finer than the difference between Old English and Middle English.
In the 20th century, the new technologies of film, television and radio helped unify slightly the Englishes of the world in a way akin to that of the Internet at the end of the century. In an effort to sound less “regional” and to sound more like the standard Englishes on news networks or in motion pictures, people’s regional accents [word pronunciations and vowel quality] began to dull, and those of younger generations seem to be “disappearing” [fading away] altogether.
The reason I speak of standardisation is that its agents (chiefly the Internet) further obscure [make unclear, make cloudy] the future of English. On one hand, I know fully well that the nature of word and grammar evolution can sever [cut off, separate] your English from mine; on the other hand, I am aware of the endless progression [advancement, going forth] of technology and that both the Internet in my age and whatever exists in yours may help keep English from changing too much.
In other words, without these standardisations in play [active, in effect], I would KNOW that our Englishes would be greatly different. I would KNOW that there would be change. But with the wild Internet, I do not know what to predict.
Finally, there could be much to be said of a difference in Englishes from planet to planet, if space travel is common in your age and humans have visited and settled on other heavenly bodies. You may perceive [see, note] a gap between “Earth English” and, say, “Mars English” in the same way American English grew distinct from British English. And then, perhaps, you will perceive a spreading and changing of English within each planet you go to. And I imagine that English will not be the only Earth language to be carried over.
As I conclude [come to a closing, finish, wrap up] this piece, I ask [request] of you two things:
First, I ask that you remember my biases. My upbringing, my schooling and my region all colour my perception of English and how it is used in my age, in the year 2018. My position and my usage of English are unique, one of a kind. They are my own. Any person in my age could have written this piece for you. But you are reading mine. Do not withhold from yourself any further study of English of my era. Read some books from the 20th and 21st centuries. Use the Internet to view old messages, old forum posts, old videos. Perhaps, on occasion, you will read or hear language that is so similar to yours that the author’s or speaker’s hand might seem to reach out to you.
Second — remember your own. Remember your own biases as you read my English, yes. But remember YOUR English. Foster a self-awareness for your speech and writing like I have done myself. Know that the future is watching you as well.
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