I Am Walt Wolfram, Ask Me ANYTHING : linguistics ›

In case you missed it, Walt Wolfram did an AMA on Reddit yesterday. The parts relevant to language change/use online:

How do you think technology (and especially the internet) is influencing how language changes these days?

Now that’s a BIG question. Written language can always have an impact on spoken language, and new technologies (like the internet) can certainly increase the usage and dissemination of written language. I think this is a question that Big Data style methods of research will be able to answer as time goes on. Furthermore, some of my grad students have even told me about some research that shows how the QWERTY keyboard layout and typing skills can affect language choices. So it is likely that the tools we use to write also can come into play.

Still, the fact of the matter is that written language is largely a mediated form of spoken language. So I am more inclined to think that while written language on the internet might not have a great influence on spoken language change, the internet and other new writing technologies might help in the dissemination and awareness of aspects of language change that is already taking place.

I should note that Joel Schneier has been my consultant on this question.

Might greater contact between various dialects (and to lesser extent between languages) contribute to greater homogenization of languages/dialects?

While this is a commonly expressed thought, I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that is the case. Even if the internet can increase contact between language speakers of different dialects, each individual’s spoken language patterns won’t necessarily be completely changed. There might be some new lexical forms, and they might have encountered evaluative information about their language, but I am inclined to think that their spoken language system will be largely unchanged.

Plus, as history shows, language contact and dialect contact do not necessarily lead to homogenization. In fact, they more likely lead to greater and more complex heterogeneity.

Again, Joel Schneier was consulted for this :)

Much more about AAVE, sociolinguistics, and other topics at the link.

Different languages talk about the world in different ways. It is crucial to look at different languages. If we restrict our view to just one language - our own - we will never truly understand the distinction between sense and reference, because it is natural to think that “our” way of talking about the world is the only one, or the most natural one. It is only when we study or learn a foreign language, and realize that other people see things differently, that we become aware of how arbitrary the relationship is between words and entities or concepts.

How Language Works by David Crystal, page 188. (via linguaphilioist)

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America Now Has More Baby Girls Named Khaleesi Than Betsy ›



why do people have like 74973 different names for these


looking through the notes for this post is hilarious bc everyone has a different name they insist is the only one

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Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

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Language Log » Emojify the Web: "the next phase of linguistic evolution" ›

No April Fool’s joke: Language Log on the rise of the emoji.


I like emoticons like “uwu” and “eue” because I can’t see them as faces so I just read them aloud as noises and associate that noise with the appropriate emotion and it makes me feel like people are doing little friendly birdcalls at each other.

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me: [posts a funny status on facebook]

me: [posts the same thing on tumblr, but with no capitalization or punctuation and more swearwords]

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(via lordteravainen)

So raise a glass to teenage girls for their linguistic innovation. It expands our expressive vocabulary, giving us new words and modes of expression. Speakers may nostalgically look to a previous golden era of English, but the truth is that Shakespeare’s English is an abomination of Chaucer’s English, which is an abomination of Beowolf’s. Language is inherently unstable. It’s in a constant state of flux, made and remade—stretched, altered, broken down and rearranged—by its speakers every day. Rather than a sign of corruption and disorder, this is language in its full vitality—a living, evolving organism.