BY SHAADAAB S BAKHT
Our lives -- whether we like it or not -- revolve around what we read, what we speak and what we write. In that order. While the first in the series is directly under our control, the last two are exposed to attacks by different users of the language we choose to communicate in.
In our case it is the English language, which is clearly suffering under the inevitable influence of technology and globalisation. We can without hesitation blame the erosion of quality speech and writing on techno-savvy users and non-English clients of the English language. Sound technology, productively wedded to commerce, is hugely responsible for leaving the English language almost directionless.
The worst victims of that technological development are those in the big and age-old business of the printed word: writers, academics and journalists. Considering that technology's aims are, and should be, speed and progress, it's doing with the language what's expected. But any language's melody and power lie in cadences and not in playing the petty porter carting information.
However, that's exactly what's happening because technology can do without melody. That's also the reason why everything remotely melodious has already become subservient to technology.
Hence, satiny and breath-stopping expressions like "lush womanhood" have lost out to the coarse "entirely voluptuous." The soul-caressing "corrugated forehead" has become the lowbrow "frown lines" in the hands of plebeian advocates of the English language. And the most wonderful word in all humankind -- "love" -- has become "luv" in the hands of speed-driven techno-savvy individuals.
When your reporter once saw his friend signing off "luv" to his fiancee in a card he had objected to the short form. The friend had replied "Don't be such a 'senti,' it actually saves time. Time is money." Your reporter had then told him "when you don't have the time to write 'love' what will you make of God's greatest gift in real terms?" He had replied "Oh! u silly piece of emotion get this card moving asap."
He had later sent an SMS to kind of pacify me. That SMS read " c u 2morow." That's why not only the former British premier Tony Blair, but every school kid too lands up spelling tomorrow either with two "m"s or one "r."
Recently at an "O" level examination the examiners were horrified to see English language test-papers with sentences using "u" instead of "you."
That clearly shows that the students have been raised on an unhealthy fodder of SMS, computer and email language. In that brand of writing "you" is "u," "see" is "c," "get lost" is "gl," "take care" is "tc," "be right back" is "brb," "take your time" "tyt" -- the list is growing daily. Therefore, the users of such a language will invariably write "right" for "write," "ring," for "wring," "thru" for both "through" and "threw."
And when they will be asked to spell "demonstration" they'll start to sweat because they would have had either read it as "demo" or rather known it as "demo." One worries what will happen to spellings like haemorrhage because even the word "dictionary" now borders on the almost embarrassing "dicky."
The next big enemy of the English language is globalisation. Lexicographers will tell you that language evolves. They will also tell you that it's a tool and, therefore, has to be constantly sharpened. But what about its character. Which way is it going?
For instance we can't any more be "gay and happy." Thanks to the Americans and the Europeans.
We can be "gay" and not happy and happy and not "gay." In college, your reporter would have had shocked an entire fraternity if he had said something like "you have my back." For the Americans it simply now means "support."
Over the years everything fashionable and attractive had become (thanks again to the Americans) groovy and sexy. Now that has changed. The new word is "awesome." Great writing is "awesome," great dancing is "awesome," great fashion shows are "awesome," great singing is "awesome."
So what happens to the English language's most attractive face -- adjectives. They are taking a real thrashing.
Singing is not any more "melodious," dancing is not any more "mesmerising," writing is not any more "reflective," fashion is not any more "classic." They are all simply "awesome."
The English language is indeed sweeping the globe, but it faces increasing corruption from those who are picking it up, linguists have so rightly warned at a meeting in London. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of the world population speak or use English daily. This ratio will be one in two by the year 2050.
The main concern for the English language puritans is that real English will become swamped by new breeds of the language that are emerging around the globe. David Crystal, head of the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, said he had recently been in a shop in Singapore and was surprised by a language that he was unable to identify.
"Being a linguist and being nosy, I asked in what language they were talking and they said English. I said no it is not, they said yes it is. It turned out to be Singlish, this Singaporian English which is a mixture of Chinese and English. The reason I could not understand was because there were too many Chinese lone words in the sentences and it sounded more Chinese than English to me," he said.
This phenomenon is not isolated to Singapore but is equally prevalent the world over: Singlish, Chinglish (a mix of Chinese mandarin and English), Spanglish (Spanish and English), Japlish (Japanese and English), Creole (West-Indian and English), and even Franglais (French and English) and Denglish (German and English).
It is possible that different English speakers will no longer be able to communicate orally despite sharing the same written language.
The linguists believe that this constant corruption will make the British feel like someone is taking over their language. "In the 21st century, a growing awareness of multiple different Englishes is leading to a mix of pride, complacency and fear among the people who speak it," said Jean Aitchison from Oxford University.
But the borrowers of the language have their own line of defence.
Eugene Eoyang, an English professor at a Hong Kong university, says : "Nobody owns English. Statistically for every native speaker there are three non-native speakers and as soon as a part of the world adopts English, it immediately begins to adapt it."
He stresses "Any language is under the ownership of a person who does it the honour to try to learn it."
British premier Gordon Brown some weeks ago pledged to make the English language the world's "language of choice."
He announced a huge programme to boost teaching and access to resources, particularly in China and India.
Brown said the British Council cultural organisation would offer English language students and teachers greater access to materials, resources and qualifications via the web.
Writing on the Downing Street website, he said the aim was to encourage a million "hits" per month, with a particular focus on China, where the government there has said children should be taught English from the age of six.
Englishman Brown's avowed mission is indeed pious and intellectually nourishing. But that piety will in all likelihood degenerate into infidelity under the progenitive influence of technology and commerce, which sacrifice everything at the altar of market gains.
How on earth something as intangible as language is going to survive that irrepressible onslaught.
Brown and his intellectual junta should fight, if they can, the fact that nobody any more "holds a burger." They all "grab it."
The speed factor is so evident in the word "grab." I don't remember when my colleagues last went out for lunch. For years they have now been going out for "a bite." Don't miss again the speed factor in the choice of the word "bite." Aren't lunches supposed to be eaten, then chewed and then swallowed?
Your reporter was told as a kid that table etiquette was meant to underline a sense of respectable pace and almost a regal sense of all-embracing gradualism. We will never be able to display that sense of etiquette when like underfed zoological inmates we'll be asked to bite into our hunger.
The world of technology and commerce perhaps can't appreciate the difference between hunger and starvation. Well, the net fallout of the usage of words like "bite" was painfully evident when recently a journalist wrote "bite" while talking about computer "bytes." And in SMS language "bite" is quicker to write than "byte."
Source: Go Dubai