What can be a more appropriate topic to kick off my Kristylized Thoughts blog than David Crystal?
Somewhat over a week ago, I went to a lecture about internet linguistics of David Crystal, a legendary figure in the world of linguistics. Name any issue in linguistics and he’s written about it. You can imagine, me being a linguistics and literature nerd, how stoked I was to meet this man:
Together with my IRP partner and friend, Lisa, I went to Rotterdam to meet the famous professor. We were informed by our University professor about this lecture a few months earlier and made sure we had our tickets in time.
Besides the fact that I walked around like a crippled person (my muscles weren’t too happy with my first spinning class ever two days before), our trip went smoothly. Before we knew it, we were in our seats and Prof. Crystal was introduced.
A 70-somewhat year old guy with a white beard appeared on the stage. Then he started talking. And how. Lisa had seen some interviews of him before and she already assured me beforehand how funny he is. And she was right.
He started the lecture with talking about the present-day urge of people to check mails on their phone the entire time, to pick up the phone at all times, so basically not being able turn away from their phone because of FoMo (Fear of Missing out). At this point, his phone rang and, needing to pick up, had a short conversation with his mom.
Continuing, he presented the two main questions that he wanted to answer throughout the lecture. Firstly, is the internet offering a revolutionary means to communicate? Secondly, is the English language different now because of the internet?
To answer the first question, is the internet a new means to communicate, he compared the internet to speech and traditional written language. An important difference he perceived with speech was the loss of simultaneous feedback on the internet. An important difference with traditional written language is that on the internet the writing changes all the time. It is far more dynamic and the language can literally change in front of your eyes. He gave more differences, but the main answer to this question is that the internet does indeed provide us with a new means of communication. It combines both written and spoken language, but adds new dimensions to those as well.
To answer the second question, is the English language different now because of the internet, he looked at three different levels of the language, namely vocabulary, grammar and orthography. In short: In vocabulary, there is no significant amount of new words. In grammar, there are no new grammatical structures. In orthography, there is punctuation minimalism, but also maximalism on the internet. The spelling of illogically spelled words is slowly changing, but there’s no great significance yet.
He concluded by stating that there has not been a lot of change in the English language due to the internet untill now, but then we should not forget “we ain’t seen nothing yet.”
After the lecture, there was the possibility to mingle and talk to Crystal. Unfortunately, we had to get back to the train station quickly. However, first one thing needed to be completed. Lisa’s foremost goal was to go on a picture with her legend. So aiming for nothing more than a picture (no large intellectual conversations for us that night), we approached him. With little girly giggles, we met the professor himself and voilà:
Interested in David Crystal now? Check the following interview on a tv show about his theory on texting: