English has become a common language online for users from around the world and in the process, the language itself is changing.
Prior to the internet age, the changes in language were already visible in history. America was far from united when it emerged from a war with Britain; it had nearly torn the nation apart. People thought a common language would help bring people together and to create a new identity that would make America independent of the British. The Webster’s dictionary adopted the Americanized spellings familiar to people today such as theater vs. theatre or color vs. colour. The dictionary even documented new words that were uniquely American such as squash or skunk.
Now, the internet is creating a similar language evolution. It is now thought be to some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. Some linguists predict that within 10 years, English will dominate the internet, but in a very different form to what people accept and recognize as English now.
People who speak English as a second language already outnumbered native speakers. The non-native speakers are using English to communicate with each other and particularly on the internet where these non-native speakers don’t have to worry about their accents, and less attention is focused on grammar and spelling. On the internet, what’s important is that people can communicate with less emphasis on what the language should be.
As one researcher from Georgetown University has stated. The convergence of cultures and trade led to the emergence of pidgin- A grammatically simplified form of a language, used for communication between people not sharing a common language.
Pidgins have a limited vocabulary, some elements of which are taken from local languages, and are not native languages, but arise out of language contact between speakers of other languages. As a result of this, take Facebook for example, has users socializing in different “Englishes” including Chinglish, Hinglish, and Spanglish just to name a few which have already existed within individual cultures, but are now expanding and emerging online.
Technology companies are tapping into the new English variations with products targeted at enabling users to add words that are not already in the English dictionary. Many companies have English websites even the smaller businesses are learning that they need English to reach global customers. Even mobile phone companies are jumping in on this and updating their apps to reflect its growing use.
The predominance of the internet in everyday life enables multiple languages to prosper. Other languages are pushing their way into English and creating something new.