Casual, Informal Written English

The final lecture is a recap, with some long-term predictions for English from McWhorter. The predictions are cool, and I won’t relate them here, but leave them for him to explain on the recording – which I highly recommend. This is the second time I’ve listened to them, and they are well worth the time. Anyway, I’ll combine my thoughts on the second last lecture with the last one here, as I don’t have all that much to say.

Texting, and all other forms of digital communication, is the development of a casual, informal style of written English. It’s not the disintegration of language any more than casual conversations and friendly chat were. I think most people recognize this, apart from the message board complainers and Andy Rooney who seem to think language reflects some sort of unchanging standard.

So, explains McWhorter, there are the four types of language: written and spoken versions of formal and casual. I like this explanation, as it appears more as a set of language style tools that a culture has, rather than any sort of progression from good to bad or something. Not unlike what I’ve written about for communication technology.

Will casual written language affect formal and how we speak? Surely, some…but people tend to keep formal and informal speaking language separate – so likely casual written language likely won’t create any major shift in the other formal or spoken uses of English. Perhaps, just a centring of balance will occur.

The final lecture is a recap, as I mentioned. It talks about the future of English, and as I think I wrote a few posts ago, I wonder about English as a new Lingua franca, a new Indo-European. There are reasons to predict that it won’t be Chinese, but then again predicting the future hundreds of years off is nothing to go to Vegas about.

This is the final post in this series of notes on John McWhorter’s audio lecture series in Myths, Lies and Half-Truths of the English Language – Link to the first post in this series is here.


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