Social Linguistics: The Contextual Evolution

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Posted 01.12.14 by 314 total shares

Words and meanings have been changing for centuries from cave paintings to petro glyphs to pictograms to ideograms to writing to the alphabet. And within each of those changes, there were historical and contextual changes that revolutionized the way humans interacted.

twitter-abbreviationsToday is no different. We have new acronyms like LOL. OMG. TY. BRB. New words like Selfie, Hashtag, Wiki and Tag. These terms have their own new “assigned” meaning, and have helped us gain a new way of conversing with each other. In quick statements, letters, sometimes pictures, we’re learning to speak a new language. Full proper sentences are becoming a thing of the past when it comes to short engagement, like on Twitter and text, because we’re looking for a faster way to be efficient in our conversations. The faster we move online and with mobile devices, the more we will see language continue to change. With a new “social” language, this evolution is happening faster, more disruptively and with greater global context than ever before.

I polled my friends on Facebook and within 2 hours, check out how quickly a list of social acronyms came so easily to them:

Bryan Kramer   LOL. OMG. TY. BRB. What are your favorites   for an...

Another new word term added to the dictionary in 2013 was “digital detox,” which is defined as:

“A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world: “Break free of your devices and go on a digital detox.”

I was recently on a Jet Blue flight that didn’t have Wi-Fi. I started to freak out, literally tweeting the airline before they closed the door asking why, of all the airlines, they did not have it. It turns out, as they answered me back immediately on Twitter (active listening! Points for that and more on that here), they were launching high-speed in-flight service the next week. By the time I had landed, being without Internet access for about 6 hours, I had written two articles, watched a movie and made a serious dent in that book I’ve carried with me for months. That time I spent on a long flight without Wi-Fi turned into some of the most glorious hours I’d had in a long time. I found that as my head slowed down, my own words started to return back into long form, full sentences again.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Each “network” has it’s own nuance of sharing. Whether it’s a social network, or the human network, our short and long-form conversations are forcing us to relearn how to share with each other in a greater context than ever before… and IMHO, this is EPIC!

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  • http://www.HarmonyNZ.net/ Lynn Abate-Johnson

    OMG, Bryan, you’ve done it again. Since I answered your Facebook poll the other day, I’ve become even more aware of speaking in fragments and acronyms. I love the story of the flight you were on. I’ve noticed the same thing, AND, it IS great to be able to watch a movie all the way through without multi-tasking, write uninterrupted, and delve into one of the many books I’ve been “collecting” lately. Bravo, my friend! You speak “my language”. And don’t forget those emoticons! Another language unto itself ;-)

    • http://www.purematter.com/ Bryan Kramer

      TY Lynn. We’ve turned into a society of SQMT’s (super quick multi-taskers)! Always a pleasure reading your comments, cheers!

  • Evelyn

    I have enjoyed your post Bryan because of the #H2H# factor ;-) There are a lot of “words” in the poll that I have no idea what they mean!! hahahahaha… so I have work to do.
    Keep the good work :D

  • fathima

    :)