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HindustanTimes Mon,20 Oct 2014

Language change constant

Guneev Jakhar, Hindustan Times   October 23, 2013
First Published: 10:11 IST(23/10/2013) | Last Updated: 10:20 IST(23/10/2013)

My mother having read her masters in English literature from Panjab University, her passion for the language is unparalleled. Just the other day sitting in the veranda, our confrontation on the metamorphosis the English language has undergone grew as strong as the storm passing over.

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I, on the other side of the debate, believe that language being intangible, changes over time as is the law of nature.

Standing in 2013, we are in the midst of a revolution, the French Revolution of the English lingua franca if I may call it so. Greek philosopher Heraclitus’s muchpublished quote, “The only thing that is constant is change” is often cited in every history classroom. But then why are we so apprehensive about the transformation of the language?

It is not wrong to believe that technology has proved to be a significant catalyst. The expeditious pace of development in artificial intelligence has led to a seismic shift in the landscape of writing. Since the emergence of text messaging, Facebook and Twitter posts, the rules of writing have been in a flux.

Taking the historical perspective, short sentences have even been used in the Old Testament. With the passage of time, writers started crafting flowery cestode-like sentences. Being casual and informal is in vogue and grand old kinds of writing are only confined to special occasions.

New word forming and new grammatical changes are eye-catching. How ‘O+kay’ became ‘OK’ to be only ‘k’ or as I have recently noticed written on web posts as ‘kk’, is a sign of wordiness and not of laziness and brevity as popularly believed. Also, no study has found that texting damages the standard of English of students.

So, new technology cannot be blamed for destroying the language.

British politician Winston Churchill had received the first ‘OMG’ way back in 1917, in an old-fashioned letter. Though the use of abbreviations takes away the eloquence of a language, on the positive side it helps us learn the art of decoding (b4-before, 2-to, too, two, OMG-Oh my God etc).

In 100 years, we may find these abbreviations in the Oxford’s English dictionary. Will these neologisms lead to the creation of a new language or will they be washed away in the sands of time?

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