English – A Changing Language.
English is the official language in a large number of colonies and territories and in 52 countries. The English language has been growing in its usage as a quarter to a third of the world’s population can use English to some degree. English is also the most widely used language in the online environment.
Keep in mind that the Chinese language is thought to have the largest number of speakers, around 885 million, and Spanish has 332 million speakers. It was estimated that English has approximately 322 million speakers.
English is not stagnant. The language is constantly changing and adapting to new phenomena in the world. New words are added to the English dictionary each year. Scholars estimate that 3,000 to 5,000 words are added each year.
The Merriam – Webster dictionary updates the entire dictionary every ten years. New words are included. They add new words that have widespread acceptance. Most times it takes a word about 10 to 20 years to gain widespread acceptance, but with the new word “dotcommer” it only took 5 years.
English is a flexible language and is always in a state of flux. It is changing by adding new words from other languages, adding new words from advancements in technology, medical advancements and diseases, and new words from pop culture and slang.
The editors at Merriam-Webster are also constantly reading English to see old words used in a different way. The word “Phat” was an old word used by the jazz musicians in the ‘40s and it has recently been resurrected to be used to mean “great, wonderful, terrific”.
Technology has added “Dot-com”, “Slamming”, “24-7”, “Megaplex” and “E-tailing”. These words have been quickly adapted to our everyday language and used across industries.
The aging of the population in America has definitely had an effect on new words. Recently the word, “comb-over” was added which is “an attempt to cover a bald spot”. “Botox” was also added recently.
Some new words are borrowed from other languages. For instance, “caffe latte” is borrowed from the French language. “Feng shui” is taken from the Chinese. The English language is flexible and adaptable and throughout the years has borrowed a great number of words directly from other languages. Pyjama and umbrella are but two.
There are new words coming from adding a prefix or suffix to an existing word. The work “cybercafe” is an example of this. “E-business” and “E-commerce” are a couple of more examples. Sometimes the way we use an existing word changes. For instance the word “heads-up” where an adverb is combined with a verb was added recently.
Compounds are another source of new words. Compounds take two existing words and pair them up as in the words “roadrage”, “voicemail” and “helpdesk”.
There is another category of so-called portmanteau words which are close to compounds but only take part of one or both words to form a new word. An example here would be the combination of “information” and “commercial” to form “infomercial”
The constant changing of words and how they are used makes English extremely interesting. One example of an old word used in a totally new way is the word “surf” as in “surf the net”.
It will be interesting to watch the English language as instant messaging grows in popularity. The abbreviations and the changed spellings may make it into the dictionaries if they are adopted in everyday language.
The changing and adapting of the English language makes it a language that remains flexible to describe new situations, technologies and phenomenon. When writing formal communications just keep checking the dictionary to make sure that you are using real words and start writing.