How Social Networks Influence The Spoken Word

I’ve always been fascinated by the way we use words; written, spoken, texted… it’s all unique to each person but the same in so many ways. Words convey feelings and emotions, portray a tone of voice, communicate opinions, outlines facts, build relationships… the list is endless.

Has social networking altered language?With the rise of social networks being seen to break down regional barriers, some linguists have voiced concerns that the spoken word will change from it’s current mix of dialects and colloquialisms to a common, nationwide parlance. But what does, in fact, seem to be happening is that social networks are actually facilitating the spread of dialects, helping some to become increasingly pronounced and well used.

Take the word ‘mint’ as an example. In Manchester, ‘mint’ means ‘very good’, as in “that film was mint”. These days, the term crops up all over the place, with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter featuring it in status updates and tweets from across the country.

With an increased ability and need to get written content out there as fast as possible (consider the rise in use of iPhones, for example, which have given even more immediacy to social networking, as well as texting) people are more likely to type as they speak, using colloquialisms, respellings and abbreviations and spreading their regional dialect.

But in amongst all the ‘lol’s and ‘rofl’s (which, coincidentally and annoyingly, are used in spoken speech by my friend – who shall remain unnamed), are we finding a new language emerging which combines dialects in a way which, rather than losing their regional distinctions, actually celebrates and encourages them?

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4 thoughts on “How Social Networks Influence The Spoken Word

  1. Cool site. Language is dynamic and ever-changing. The lingua franca and street talk of today, spurned by grammarians and purists, becomes the “King’s English” over time if enough people use it. It eventually winds up in dictionaries and grammar books. To scoff and complain about the degradation of the language at any point in time is, forgive the pun, a waste of time. The only legitamate beef, IMHO, is to criticize the poverty of expression/imagination and the level of discourse–which can be pretty poor and low in social media today. Forgive the pontification. Again, cool site, interesting ideas.

    Margaret Jean Langstaff

  2. Thanks for your comment Margaret, glad you enjoy my blog! I agree with your comment – language is dynamic and therefore to attempt to avoid change is to attempt the impossible. It is the variety and fluidity of language that makes it so intriguing and beautiful.

    I understand your point about a lack of expression and variety of terminology in social media. However, there must be something to be said for the ability of social media to push us to communicate quickly and in the most easy to understand manner. Take Twitter as a prime example – by limiting people to 140 characters, does it in fact encourage us to be more creative with our language?

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