in Language & Culture

Marketing Translations have been crucial to the evolution of language online. With words such as “unfriend,” “selfie” and “lol” finding their way from our computer screens to our everyday vocabulary, there’s no denying social media has a significant impact on the way we communicate. It exposes language to a constant state of alternation, regeneration, and according to some, deterioration. Language naturally changes with the times, and with the growth of online communication comes an introduction of shortened, time-saving phrases. But is social media really killing our language, or is it simply changing the way we express ourselves?

Marketing Translations: Social Media and the Evolution of Language


Since so much written language nowadays is encountered through the use of computer screens, tablets, and mobile phones, it is only natural for language to evolve through technology. Words like “lol,” which were once only meant to signify “laughing out loud,” now appear in spoken language as a marker of empathy or compromise. The once commonly used “um-,” “like” and “you know” are now being replaced by “lol” to express comprehension or simply add a pause in conversation. For linguists, this is an ideal example of pragmatic particle, a word or phrase that is used to fill gaps in discourse.

Similarly, the addition of a period at the end of a sentence is no longer simply an affirmation of proper grammar, but is also a way to demonstrate anger or aggression. In both written and spoken language, individuals will insert pauses between words to indicate the magnitude of a statement. Ellipses are also no longer used to indicate the omission of a word or sentence, but to help keep a conversation open and light, persuading the other person to offer a response.

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While some despair at how the use of informal communication is the beginning of a world filled with emoticons and misspellings, others believe the impact of technology on the evolution of language is overstated. Linguist Professor David Crystal said, “The Internet has only been around for some 20 years, which is no time at all. It takes a lot longer for permanent or significant language change to operate.” But for those who are troubled by the downfall of grammar every time they hear someone screaming out “YOLO,” chances are new fads are just around the corner. Alternatively, keeping up with these trends may be a great way to experiment with vocabulary and spot emerging new words; who knows, you just might find one worth keeping.


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