The Evolution of the English Language

The English language is a marvelous creation. Communication is a key to our modern day society, and the English language is the foundation for which we communicate on many different mediums such as texting, social media, literature, and common speech. My issue is that many adults seem to believe that the youth of today are somehow degrading and ruining the English language. Adults try and argue that our use of “like”, “lol”, and “totally” are somehow degrading and destroying the English language, but according to John McWhorter, author of, “Like, Degrading the Language? No Way”, and the creator of the TED Talk “Txting is Killing Language. JK!!!”, “Lol creates a comfort zone by calling attention to sentiments held in common” (McWhorter). We aren’t degrading the language, just evolving the language to be compatible with modern day technology and communication mediums.

“Lol” is used as a sort of empathetic term to share in a common displeasure. In his article, McWhorter says, “There is, overall, an awareness of the states of minds of others in much of what is typically regarded as Clearasil-scented grammatical sloth.” (McWhorter) My generation’s use of “totally” and “like” are not reflecting an inability to eloquently phrase a sentence, but showing that the use of these words are subconscious tendencies that have become ingrained parts of our natural speech patterns. Speech is not, and has never been a perfect linguistic benchmark. It isn’t as “perfect” as writing, because writing is deliberate, and thought out, whereas speech is a natural process that is spontaneous.

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McWhorter said in his TED Talk, “Speech is much looser. It’s much more telegraphic. It’s much less reflective — very different from writing.” Adding in “like”, and “totally” into everyday speech are a part of my generation’s slang. Slang is a natural part of the language.

Dating back to the Romans, there was slang, and incorrect grammar. The use of these language deficiencies was called Vulgar Latin, but it was used by the common people in everyday conversations, and it had incorrect verb tenses, slang, and incorrect masculine and feminine verbs, but it displayed a natural speech pattern, even in the graffiti from the Romans. Vulgar Latin could be equated to our texting language in which abbreviations and slang are used constantly, and proper grammar becomes secondary. It’s not incorrect, it is just a branching off, or evolution of the English Language. Texting acts as a form of speech as opposed to a form of writing, because it is used to hold a conversation, rather than to eloquently express thoughts.

Speech patterns always evolve. It is a natural part of human society. We probably do not speak like someone from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s generation did, and that is okay. Just because speech patterns evolve does not mean the language is being degraded. In conclusion, the English language is not being degraded, but undergoing change. Since language is an organic process, it is constantly changing.

My generation’s use of “like” and “totally” are a part of natural speech tendencies that show a careful reflection of thought, rather than an incapability to perfectly say a sentence. Texting is another front where language is evolving. The use of “lol” and incorrect grammar are constant, and that is fine. Lol in it of itself has undergone a change in meaning. It formerly was used to show a sense of humor, but it now it is used to show mutual displeasure by showing empathy through its use.

Language is constantly changing, not being degraded. The evolution of languages has been happening for hundreds if not thousands of years, and it is natural. Language does not get degraded. It changes, and people should embrace the change, rather than put a stigma on it.