Language and the Internet

Language and the Internet

Language and the Internet

Language and the Internet

Synopsis

According to popular mythology, the Internet will be bad for the future of language--technospeak will rule, standards will be lost, and creativity diminished as globalization imposes sameness. David Crystal, one of the foremost authorities on language, argues the reverse in his new book: that the Internet is enabling a dramatic expansion of the range and variety of language and is providing unprecedented opportunities for personal creativity. In order to grow and be maintained as a linguistic medium, the principles and standards of the Internet must evolve--and they will be very different from other mediums. Is the Internet a revolution? Is it a linguistic revolution? Beyond the visual panache of the presentation on a screen, the Internet's "linguistic" character is immediately obvious to anyone online. As the Internet has become incorporated into our lives, it is becoming clearer how it is being shaped by and is adapting language and languages. Language and the Internet is the first book by a language expert on the linguistic aspects of the Internet. Opening up linguistic issues for a general readership, Crystal argues that "netspeak" is a radically new linguistic medium that we cannot ignore. David Crystal is one of the foremost authorities on language, and as editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia he has used the Internet for research purposes from its earliest manifestations. His work for the technology company Classification Data Limited has involved him in the development of an information classification system with several Internet applications, and he has extensive professional experience of Web issues. Crystal is author of several books with Cambridge, including the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (1997), Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language (1995), English as a Global Language (1997), and Langugage Death (2000) and Words on Words (University of Chicago, 2000) . An internationally renowned writer, journal editor, lecturer and broadcaster, he received an OBE in 1995 for his services to the English language. His edited books include The Cambridge Encyclopedia (Fourth Edition, 2000) The Cambridge Paperback Encyclopedia (Third Edition, 1999), The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia (Second Edition, 1997) and The Cambridge Factfinder ( Fourth Edition, 2000).

Excerpt

The Internet is an electronic, global, and interactive medium, and each of these properties has consequences for the kind of language found there. The most fundamental influence arises out of the electronic character of the channel. Most obviously, a user's communicative options are constrained by the nature of the hardware needed in order to gain Internet access. Thus, a set of characters on a keyboard determines productive linguistic capacity (the type of information that can be sent); and the size and configuration of the screen determines receptive linguistic capacity (the type of information that can be seen). Both sender and receiver are additionally constrained linguistically by the properties of the Internet software and hardware linking them. There are, accordingly, certain traditional linguistic activities that this medium can facilitate very well, and others that it cannot handle at all. There are also certain linguistic activities which an electronic medium allows that no other medium can achieve. How do users respond to these new pressures, and compensate linguistically?

It is important to know what the various limitations and facilitations are. A well-established axiom of communication states that users should know the strengths as well as the restrictions of their chosen medium, in relation to the uses they subject it to and the purposes they have in mind. People have strong expectations of the Internet, and established users evidently have strong feelings about how it should be used to achieve its purposes. However, it is not a straightforward relationship. The evolution of Netspeak illustrates a real tension which exists between the nature of the medium and the aims and expectations of its users. The heart of the matter seems to be its relationship to spoken and written language. Several . . .

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