Lingua Sapiens

We mentioned before that languages are not static, but evolving entities. Frisian became Anglo-Saxon became old English became Shakespearian English became British English became American English (possibly skipping British English in this particular case).

So the fact is, language is still evolving. As much as we enjoy watching Mad Men and find it a throwback to a now unfamiliar time, if someone from 1960′s New York were to hear us speak, they’d be much more perplexed. Expressions like “like, OMG, ridic” and even “in your face!”, “diss” and “that is sooooo (insert time period)” would sound foreign to them, and in 20 years there will be other expressions to add onto these.

Language evolution tends to start with ‘the masses’, so it is no surprise that much of our add-ons have come from urban and mass immigration environments. What is a bit more surprising, it what young rich girls have been contributing. Notice how many people end their sentences with the “uptalk” (as if they are asking a question). Once the realm of insecure girls, old stodgy male politicians are now using it as well, not to mention the number of times you will hear “like” in an average sentence (something 1960′s ad execs would have never used as a filler).

Examples can be found everywhere – KiezDeutsch in Germany, Straattaal in the Netherlands, Rinkeby-svenska in Sweden and the Verlan of France. What is interesting is how linguist purists denounce the death of dialects and do everything in their power to preserve them (which we think is a great idea, btw – I mean by the way), while at the same time denouncing these upcoming types of slang, refusing to call them dialects.

The fact is, no language that is spoken today is the same language that was spoken several hundred years ago, in fact many languages are indistinguishable from just 100 years ago (written Chinese might have the same (traditional) characters that Confucius used, but his pronunciation of the words would have been very different).

Why not recognize that these are new dialects in the making, and possibly the next step in national languages? And maybe one day linguists will be fighting to preserve some version of the contemporary English or German language.

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