WS 2011/2012             exam translation (advanced)       (Staatsexamen Frühjahr  2011)              text #15

Internet English

Although an exclusively English-language medium at the outset, because of its origins in the USA, the Internet has steadily developed a multilingual identity. At least a quarter of the world’s languages have an Internet presence now, and many of these are minority and endangered languages. For a small speech community, the Internet therefore offers a linguistic lifeline, enabling its scattered members to keep in touch with each other through emails and chat-rooms, and through Web sites giving their language a world presence which it would have been impossible to achieve using traditional media, such as broadcasting or the press.

But the emergent multilingual character of the Internet must not blind us to the impact that the medium is also having on English. The majority of Web pages in English are in British or American Standard English, as we would expect; however, other varieties are growing. Any intranational regional dialect which has a history of enthusiastic support will have its Web pages now. And at an international level, the ‘New Englishes’ in the world now have available a written electronic identity which previously it was possible to achieve only through conventional literature. It seems likely that, with a much greater frequency of informal written interaction taking place than at any previous stage in the history of the language, we will see the rapid emergence and consolidation of local group norms of usage – several of which will privilege nonstandard forms. These new varieties are bound to achieve a more developed written representation than would ever have been possible before, and through the global reach of the Internet they may well extend their influence beyond their country of origin.

A whole new range of Internet-mediated regional written standards is the likely outcome. And as the amount of written language on the Internet will eventually far exceed that available in traditional print form, a new type of relationship between nonstandard varieties and Standard English will one day emerge. Several Internet varieties are inherently informal in character, and the more these are given written expression, the more the medium heightens the contrast with Standard English, which is essentially a manifestation of language in its written form. It is a volatile, unprecedented, unpredictable, and altogether fascinating linguistic situation.

(David Crystal. 2005. The Stories of English. London: Penguin, 520 – 523, adapted)   

For the original (unadapted) text go to: David Crystal, The Stories of English, p. 520 – 529

A severe case of “Internet addiction”: 

David Crystal on the Net:

1) Is control of English shifting away from British and American native speaker? [5:12]
2) Which ‘English’ should you teach your students? [2:59]
3) How is the Internet changing language today? [4:07]
4) Should English be taught as a ‘global’ language? [4:03]
5) Why is English a ‘global’ language [2:33]
6) Texts and Tweets: myths and realities [31:00]
7) BBC Newsnight with Jeremy Paxton: Time to ditch the apostrophe? [4:18]
8) David Crystal on Anniversaries (Cambridge University) [59:01]
9) David Crystal on the show “It’s Only a Theory” [10:56]

PLUS: The History of English (in ten minutes):

PLUS: EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES:,_Shoots_%26_Leaves 


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