The end of the old year and the beginning of the new one brings all sorts of top song or movie lists, best news story links, and predictions for the coming year. One news story I read that caught my attention, and yet got little press last year, was one that predicted that within a hundred years we would only have three languages left on earth. Currently we have over 6500 languages. http://www.infoplease.com/askeds/many-spoken-languages.html
The three remaining languages were predicted to be, (in order by the number of speakers): Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English. This is in and of itself a bit confusing as apparently English is also now spoken by more people as a second language than as a first.
So a worldwide decrease to just three languages seems unlikely, but the takeaway is the world is merging and morphing into itself more than ever before and technology is a big reason for these rapid changes, especially when it comes to language. The use of the internet has changed how we speak to each other and has brought us together. Rare spokenonly languages are becoming extinct at a rapid pace.
Languages have always evolved, just go see any Shakespeare play to realize how popular “ye” and “hath” once were. Recently online communities began to create words, often from existing words used to describe the experiences they were having. Those words then became used in daily life conversations, and eventually became part of our collective vernacular. Remember when the words spam, cookie, surf, glitch, and lag had only one meaning? Fifteen years ago though, if you said you were tweeting, you likely would have been very misunderstood.
This rapid increase in changing language perhaps started with the advent of computers themselves. When computers were first invented and at the beginning of their growth, it was only a very small, select group of the population who knew or understood computer lingo. DOS, file transfers, and processing capabilities were niche topics, little understood by others. However, as the home computer became small and affordable and started to enter into every home, suddenly more people started using certain computer terms, and they gradually made their way into the mainstream lexicon. That has crept even further into our purses and pockets with the advent of wireless technologies.
The Internet has not only connected everyone around the world, but it has provided us with brand new opportunities — as global communities — to develop our own unique lingo to describe new and fascinating technologies and experiences. In doing so we are all, collectively, evolving the English language in ways that the world has rarely seen at such a rapid pace. And I’m sure Chinese and Spanish are evolving just as fast. Sorry Old Low Norse – but your days seem to be numbered.