Farewell to the English Language?


Joe Gilbert is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Cheltenham. He graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in 2013 and has a BA in Film Production.

English 3.0 is a 20-minute documentary he’s making that examines how the internet has affected the way in which we write and speak. Some people express anxiety because of the unknown directions the web is leading the English language. Is the end of the line a new generation of dumbed down, abbreviating individuals who speak in a jargon of misspelled shortened words, ending every sentence with “lolz”?  Are they destroying the purity of English as we know it?

Others take a more liberal approach, arguing the web has encouraged many more people to engage in forms of writing, most notably through blogging sites such as Blogspot and Tumblr, many of which are written excellently and tackle a variety of what could be dubbed ‘intellectual topics’ like feminism or philosophy. Today, more people than ever feel an urge to write because of the accessibility of the internet and crucially it is the youth who are doing so. After all, they are of course the future. Inevitably some of the writing will be of a poor standard, but not the majority. Surely this is only a good thing? Perhaps the colloquial abbreviations certain people write are used only in a certain context – that of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, because it saves time, serving to replicate speech. Who’s to say that they are not cable of writing in the ‘correct’ formal register when doing so is required?

English is incredibly versatile and its success as a global language is largely down to its ability to adapt as the world changes. Evidence for this is all around. Take the OED’s word of the year 2009 – ‘unfriend’. A word coined by Facebook. In 2011, LOL and OMG were included in the dictionary. They first gained recognition from online chatrooms and have since morphed into longer and more over the top acronyms.  LOL stands out in particular, as many people actually say it aloud as a word in its own right.

Several high profile people have confirmed to appear in the film.

Firstly, Robert McCrum. Robert is associate editor of The Observer and an author. His most famous book is called ‘The Story of English’.

Secondly, David Crystal. David is a linguistic who has authored over 120 books and lectured at Bangor and Reading University.

Thirdly, Tom Chatfield. Tom is theorist and author, perhaps best known for his book ‘Netymology’ which details the origin of internet words.

Finally, Fiona Mcpherson. Fiona is the senior editor is the new words group at the OED.

The film urgently requires sponsors. If you would like to donate money to help fund the film, information is available here. You could see your name in the credits!


You can also keep up to date with the progress of the film via Facebook.




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3 responses to “Farewell to the English Language?

  1. This struck such a cord with me…my mother is reading my manuscript at the moment which is based in the 1930′- 40’s. I have used expressions in my dialogue that would be far too modern for that period without even realising it….so easily done. Then looking forward to my 12 year old son who writes (and speaks ) in txt, I mean text speak, things are moving at quite a pace!

  2. I find this fascinating. Both because I see the folly of lamenting the change of language (it is a living thing and meant to evolve) and because I get annoyed at people who can’t code switch their written communication in different contexts.

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