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Opinions on Conservation Optimism: Naïve Or Necessary?

29th April 2020

If you are interested in studying English at University, you might like to look into current debates around language such as the use of ‘digital English.’ As a medium of communication that is constantly becoming more widely used, there is an inevitable influence of technology on language. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that the language of the internet is inferior to conventional standards of written English- but why is the adaptation and progression of language commonly seen as a sign of degradation?

Take a look at this poem by Hetty Hughes:

txtin iz messin,
mi headn'me englis,
try2rite essays,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn, swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni.
&she's african

As winner of the Guardian’s text message poetry competition in 2001, Hetty Hughes’s poem challenges relevant issues about the effect of the electronic age on the English language. While the speaker’s grandmother claims that pre-technology English is ‘better,’ Hughes is able to skilfully combine the language of text messaging with the poetic form to create award-winning literature. Despite misspellings and abbreviations, Hughes presents a new and exciting progression of language that can still fit into traditional forms. Maybe her grandmother and the traditional body of writers that she represents are just outdated and resistant to change?


Find examples of internet language in your everyday life

If you use text messaging, social media, or any other forms of digital communication, it is likely that you will use certain features of language in that context that do not adhere to conventional standards of written English. Scroll through conversations with friends and try to identify where you use acronyms, abbreviations, misspellings, emojis, gifs or internet jargon. You may not even realise that you and others around you are doing it, until you look closer at ‘lol can u share my tiktok on ur story’ and realise that it wouldn’t make sense in another context! 

Is internet language necessary?

Hetty Hughes’s poem represents the infiltration of ‘digital English’ into the language of youth, but even the more traditional grandmother-types may find themselves having to adapt.

For example, have a look at the online presence of a well-established corporation, such as BBC News. Despite having been around for 96 years and having a generally mature audience, BBC News has clearly had to adapt to the ever-increasing influence of technology in their online articles. Although they do maintain some standards of traditional printed newspapers, more so than a modern online network with a generally younger audience such as Buzzfeed, the BBC has to use linguistic features such as hyperlinks which cannot be found in written language. The digital age creates an undeniable pressure for language to evolve with its changing mediums. 

What do you think?

What is your opinion on internet language? Perhaps you believe that we should start writing books in LOLs and emojis, or perhaps you think ‘digital English’ should be cut out completely. Maybe you are in between. What is important is that you think about why you hold these beliefs about language evolution, and how you would back yourself up if someone challenged you. These are the kind of skills you will be using to form arguments at university level.