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The internet and the English language

Updated Friday, 4th July 2014

Mark Swinson, business leader at IBM and OU graduate suggests the internet has been the biggest influence on the English language's development 

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English has changed over the centuries and many things – war, political change, economic change –have had a bearing on that. But when I think of the factors that drive the mixing of languages and cultures, it’s the internet that has had the most impact, allowing people around the world to connect on a peer-to-peer basis. The result is that new ideas, new concepts and new meanings have taken hold much more rapidly. 
Social media makes that even stronger. New words spread so quickly because of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The way my parents and grandparents used certain words would have been different – words come and go, meanings change. My teenagers recently talked about something being “dank”, but they didn’t mean “dark and damp”, they meant “good”. They tell me I’m so last year.
The internet has created not a generation gap, but a new virtual world. It’s becoming a driver of change in its own right as well as a medium to spread and facilitate change. There are always concerns that language is being corrupted or bastardised, but that’s always happened to English. It’s not new, it’s just happening much more quickly.




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