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Copyright © 2001
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How It Progresses
from Script to CD Rom
Kaveri Paul, Ph.D.
This paper is an attempt to discuss what Language means in the modern world, where man's progress has actually advanced by leaps and bounds. This discussion focuses on the concept of language, how it differs in different contexts, and how, today, with new medias of communication, use of language is affected by the Internet, E-mail, Fax, and SMS, etc. This paper tries to show how vocabulary, rather than sentence, and short forms, acronyms and synonyms have come to represent language.
Today is the day for SMS and E-mails. Long and lengthy transcriptions have given way to short and numeric structures. Teenagers today use SMS and E-mail with various short forms, which are perhaps incomprehensible to adults, and function more as a nightmare to a linguist or a teacher of English, trying to teach languages in a classroom.
I focus on how the youth of today communicate with each other, how language is transformed in this process, and how it adopts itself to the new situation. This analysis reveals the grandeur and the power of communication in today's world.
2. WILLIAM WALSH ON THINGS THAT GIVE POINT AND SHAPE TO OUR EDUCATION
William Walsh, in his book, A Human Idiom (Chatto & Windus, London 1964), argues that, in the modern society, there has been a tremendous growth in technical skill, a huge and elaborate professional competence. But at the same time there seems to be no connection between the vast increase in means and the successful bringing about of the end they exist to serve, that is, an educated society. A good education persists not as a collection of information, an arrangement of intellectual bric-a-brac, but, a certain unity of self, more or less coherent, more or less rich, and a certain method of thinking and feeling, more or less complex, more or less sensitive, and finally what lasts is in us ultimately and enters our being as a result of school and college, is a blend of values, attitudes and assumptions, and a certain moral tone, a special quality of imagination, a particular flavor of sensibility - the things that give point and shape to our education.
Walsh also emphasizes that there is also a severe contraction and enfeeblement. There has been an impoverishment in those systems of tacit assumptions on which man must base his character and conduct. Human life depends on metaphysics and incorporates a morality and a faith.
3. ALWAYS NEEDED: A CONCEPTION OF WHAT MAN IS- LANGUAGE AS THE CROWN
As D. H. Lawrence has rightly said, "It is useless to think that we can get along without a conception of what man is, and without a belief in ourselves, and without the morality to support this belief."
Next to behavior there is nothing that gives more intimate, more accurate testimony to the quality of feeling in society and to its capacity for true relations, than its use of language.
4. DEGENERATION OF LANGUAGE: THE LOSS OF VERVE AND VARIETY
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that so many writers and poets have noted in our time a degeneration in language, a corruption in the essential meaning of thought and of human vitality, a tendency towards decline. But, in the past, languages have been refreshed by poets and by the people. Today, however, we cannot see this happening. What we notice is that people have little or no value for language, they seem to have lost the taste for the flavor of colloquialism, they seem no longer able to produce that verve and variety of dialect or the energy of phrases and image with which they used to replenish the power of words.
5. DIVORCING LANGUAGE FROM ITS HUMANITY
Language as it is used today exhibits a progressive de-humanization. We see this medium minus humanity in every sphere. We see it in the language of politics and administration, in the language of social sciences and education: it is what could be termed as lethargic, passive and numb with impersonal, emptied of contrast and non-musical.
For example here is an extract from a psychological journal: "It is clear that the optimum total situation implied in the baby's readiness to get what is his mutual regulation with a mother who will permit him to develop and coordinate his means of getting as she develops and coordinates her means of giving."
6. ON DEFINING TECHNICAL TERMS: THE BUSINESS OF LANGUAGE
The point here is that nobody will deny the necessity of psychologists to construct a technical language for scientific purpose. The only difficulty, however, is, as Collinwood has argued, that a technical term, is so far as it calls for explanation is, to that extent, not language but something else which resembles language in being significant, but differs from it in not being expressive or self explanatory. "The business of language is to express or explain; if language cannot explain itself nothing else can explain it."
Another difficulty is that though it is a set of technical terms, this set conducts itself as though it were ordinary language. What the general reader misses is that such de-humanization of language is increasingly being used by young adults. What they fail to realize is that it is hardly language.
Such a usage, therefore, implies that language is a concept of man as half-animal, or half-machine, half-man. A more sophisticated species of degeneration shows itself in the habit of expression which deceives us into applying to one sphere of life terms and discourses totally inappropriate to it. This application ultimately results in a confused personality.
7. THE HUMANIZING INFLUENCE OF LANGUAGE
That language has the supremely humanising influence is denied in such behavioral acts. Through language man's nature is influenced and changed. It is therefore, essential to stop this degeneration in language use if civilization is to be preserved. We cannot wholly change the current of history, or wholly shape the life we want, but we can certainly use our intelligence and the means that are at our disposal.
Power of communication has thus helped man to develop many other skills over the years. And it is this ability to communicate with each other through language that is considered by the humans to be an advancement of the species.
Man is proud of the fact that although other creatures do communicate, man is the only creature, which has developed the three skills - to read, write and speak. And the progress has not stopped there. Now with the advancement of science and technology, the overflow of IT (Information Technology) has made communication more and more technological and complex. It is no longer the simple use of the chalk and slate, or pen and paper. The use of the electronic medium like the computer, mobile phone, notepads, etc., has become very common.
8. LINGUISTIC CHANGES CAUSED BY THE USE OF COMPUTERS AND E-MAILS
It is, however, interesting to note that, with the use of computers and e-mails, the language has undergone a drastic change. The language itself has been modified to suit the purposes. For example, the SMS (Short Messaging Service), which is the hot favourite amongst the youngsters, consists of codes. The language here comprises of alphabets and numbers. More and frequent use of phonetic sounds rather than words is an important characteristic of SMS. For example:
|I miss u 2.
|| I miss you
|Pls wa8 4 me.
|| Please wait
|Cool SMS's 4 u!
||Cool SMS messages
||Keep in touch.
|I c, c u.
| :), ;), :o, :(
smile, wink, grin
and sad faces.
Another feature of this language trend is the use of code language by the teenagers. It appears that the use this type of code language by youngsters as is the direct outcome of excessive use of computer and SMS on the cell phones.
|C U || See you.|
|2 day ||Today|
|try 2 cum ||Try to come.|
|wait 4 me || Wait for me.|
|2b or not 2b ||To be or not to be.|
|got 2 go|| Got to go.|
Cool, zanzy, punky, trendy, hiper, fossilised, nutty, gr8, duffer.
|IOU ||Idiot of |
|NAAC ||Notorious Artist|
|FH ||Fat head|
| TD ||Totally|
|GC ||Gone Case|
|BRB || Be right back
9. SOCIAL SUPERIORITY THROUGH COMPUTER USE
Language has always helped establish social status such as superior or inferio. Now, with the use of SMS and code language, youngsters are trying to establish a power set-up. This is clearly found in the way they use the electronic media. This power shift is found in Schools, Colleges, Universities and Offices. It has therefore become very necessary to be familiar with the use of computer, e-mail, and media. Since youngsters are adept in this media, the older generation now has to take their help to access and enter certain data, which, previously, was manually fed into registers and log books in long hand.
10. GENERATIONAL GAP AND POWER PLAY
The trend now is to employ the services of youngsters with computer knowledge to process, use and store all kinds of data using computers. This makes the youngsters feel the power they have over others. The older generation feels helpless because they are no longer wielding the power as before. This has given rise to resentment on the part of the older generation, since they are forced into learning new technology to handle the new technical gadgets.
Thus, in the remost past, language gradually shifted from the spoken to the written, and from papyrus to paper, but now it shifts to electronic form of language. Among the new generation, language is considered powerful only when they can use it to make a statement, an observation, or a remark using e-mails, and SMS. Various linguistic devices are created, and although at times it is difficult to comprehend the message contained in a SMS even by the people of same generation and social group, it appears that the lingo seems to be holding in many contexts among a variety of young people, even across ethnic and provincial boundaries.
Language is power and the effective use of this gives rise to power shift. Today the person who can master the use of electronic media is at the centre of power; the others are at the periphery and dependent on those who are in a position to use the media easily and effectively.
This paper was presented in the seminar at SNDT Mumbai, held from 4th to 6th Feb 2004.
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Kaveri Paul, Ph.D.
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