Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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Once upon a time, the only way that humans could communicate complex notions and ideas was through the spoken word.
This was before early man had created any form of written language. A few grunts and a gesture or two probably did the job originally but, as we evolved and our brains grew, we developed a sophisticated range of spoken languages that have evolved with us over the years.
Once written language became widespread (only in the last few hundred years), we also developed a complex set of rules to define the syntactical and lexical composition of those written words.
And now, with the advent of the internet, our language continues to evolve -- or is it actually devolving?
Read the prose of any popular 20th century writer and you'll find their work to be rich with colour, vibrancy, precision and depth -- delivered by careful use of the subtle nuances intrinsic to (in our case) the English language.
Take a look at contemporary txt-talk however and you'll see that we're rapidly reverting to the grunting and gesturing that our Neanderthal predecessors relied on.
Instead of grunting, we have expressions such as "LOL" and "ROTFL".
Instead of gestures, we have emoticons such as :-) and :-o
Here in NZ it also appears that it's becoming more important to have a strong grounding in Te Reo than in the proper use of English.
Walk down a street in some parts of the country and you won't hear the friendly greetings of yester-year -- you'll hear "Cher bro" and "s'up cuzzie".
To be honest, I find the latter to be simply an evolution of the vernacular and something that has gone on for years. Nothing wrong with that.
However, I cringe when I hear these people abuse the language with phrases such as "me and my friend didn't do nothing" -- that's just wrong on so many levels.
There is a school of thought that claims so long as the meaning is clear, the grammar, syntax and other grammatical errors are not important.
Personally, I disagree.
The very reason for all those rules of grammar, spelling etc -- is to ensure that the meaning of the written and spoken word is as clear as possible. This is particularly important when dealing with English because it is nowhere near as elegantly structured or "maintained" as, for example, the French language.
"Time flies" -- does that conjure up images in your mind of someone standing next to some tiny winged insects with a stopwatch? Or does it simply remind you that this moment will soon be but a memory?
Very ambiguous -- and we don't need the true intended meaning of the language further compromised by inappropriate use of apostrophes, commas, mis-spellings and the like.
What's more, now that we're probably more reliant on the written word than ever before (thanks to email, SMS and other Net-based written mechanisms), we ought to be even more focused on "getting things right", rather than ignoring the rules.
English was never my strongest subject but since it was an essential one, I did apply myself to the task of learning it when at school. No doubt many readers will be able to pick a thousand holes in every column I write - but I shudder to think what the next generation of amateur writers will spit out.
What do readers think?
Are we simply seeing the language evolve for the better -- or are we actually seeing a degree of devolution, bought about by the need to get thoughts into text as quickly as possible -- or driven by the belief that "near enough is good enough?"
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