Language plays a vital role in human communication; it is the code that convey thoughts to be understood by another person. Language carries the code to addresses the past, present and future, to formalise ideas, trigger action and form relationships. Language is also extremely powerful in technology.
There are 7,102 different codes spoken around the world, with each human society using their language to communicate just as effectively as the next. Our species has used language right from when Homo sapiens evolved in Africa up to 200,000 years ago.
The FOXP2 gene is essential for speech in humans. Interestingly, the gene is identical at two key loci in humans and Neanderthals (which became extinct around 40,000 years ago) but different in chimpanzees. Whether extinct human species, such as Neanderthals had the ability to speak, read and write is unknown as recent genetic evidence shows that the Neanderthal brain regulated its FOXP2 gene differently.
Language is inherently symbolic- sounds make up words which are processed by the auditory cortex of the brain. Language has been and is most definitely continuing to be evolved in a series of continuous and intricate steps. Found in at least 100 countries, English is on course to be the planet’s lingua franca, in competition with Chinese and Spanish. Not only do 335 million people hold English as their first language, a further 550 million cite it as their second.
However, if English is a ‘bridge’ language, making it possible for those without a dialect in common to communicate, it may not be the English that native speakers are used to. Millions of second-language English speakers around the world have created dialects that incorporate elements of their native languages and cultures. These varieties have been named ‘similects’ and they are here to stay.
It was once thought that there were two possible futures for the English language: “In one we would end up speaking American English. In the other, English would separate like Latin did, and we would end up with [new] languages. I don’t think either of those is happening” says Anna Mauranen of the University of Helsinki in Finland.
English is likely to be the language of choice for international discourse, as it has already dominated international relations, business and science. But with technology constantly altering our way of communicating, our warped English language is now enriched with emoticons, text speak and online jargon. As English grammar gets simpler and less linguistically ‘correct’, there will always be those who consider this spoilage. However, these linguistic trends are spreading; they are spreading because it is expressive and useful.
So, could the English language become dominated by our online jargon and txt talk- if we’re still speaking at all, that is?