The Influence of Modern Electronic Media on the Usage of the English Language

Term Paper, 2019

15 Pages, Grade: 2,3

Miriam B. (Author)


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. The Internet and Language Change
2.1 The Function of Online Language

3. How Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Influences our Lives
3.1 Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Communication Media
3.2 Linguistic Aspects of Speech vs. Writing

4. Syntactic Properties of Computer-Mediated Language

5. Sample Analysis of a Blog

6. The Influential Power of the Internet

7. Conclusion


Language and electronic media

1. Introduction

Electronic media, including the devices that were brought along, did become a changing power of society. While dealing with this changing power more closely, it becomes conspicuous that the Internet functions as a significant force. More precisely, it appears as an engine that keeps electronic media development going. Furthermore, the Internet stands for another massive influence concerning any human being on earth that is in favor of being connected to others: Language. To make it more specific there is talk of language change.

When the Internet’s power is evaluated from a superficial perspective the thoughts that the Internet creates new words, makes prevailing words disappear, uses abbreviations instead and spreads the results on weblogs or other social media sites, comes to mind easily.

However, the Internet brought various changes. One of its obvious ones is the way people talk to each other due to modern technology; looking on a phone screen has replaced looking into other people’s eyes. Besides, the society is not forced to leave their safe homes anymore because anything that might be needed is available on the Internet, ready to be clicked on. It seems like this medium has made life easier but what is also mandatory to take into consideration are all the negative side effects that electronic media brought along: The loss of punctuation and spelling skills due to texting and the need of including as much information as possible in as little text as possible or the standardization of using abbreviations.

Many linguists, such as David Crystal or Naomi Baron, already wrote on the influencing role of the Internet regarding the use of language and therefore function as the main sources of this paper. Furthermore, this paper is going to focus on the linguistic aspects of Internet language starting with language change, going over to the functional and syntactical features of Internet language, the distinction of speech and writing and a visualization of all these aspects within a sample analysis of a blog. The investigation of all these subareas is necessary to answer the following question: Is the Internet destroying language or does it mainly function as an innocent party in this case?

2. The Internet and Language Change

“The emergence of new technologies usually causes new words. In the case of computer and the Internet many existing words got new meanings, too, for example, the verbs ‘to browse’ or ‘to surf’” (Greiffenstern 2010: 122).

The Internet has changed the way we communicate, the way we do organize our everyday life including the way we work out. Besides, all of these changes none might be as influential as language change. One can say that the Internet, obviously, created the Internet Language and therefore caused a new chapter of language change.

Language change can occur due to various triggers. “There are internal factor like language structure, and external factors like contact and borrowing” (Greiffenstern 2010: 81). In additions to those factors, Greiffenstern also mentions ‘extra-linguistic factors’. “There are for example, sociopolitical and economic factors as well as social-psychological factors like identity and attitudes” (Greiffenstern 2010: 81). Moreover, it is important to understand that language change constantly surrounds members of society because from generation to generation changes occur in language and the usage of words. David Crystal (2006: 57) comments this with the following:

In olden times (…) it would take several years before a new word would achieve a sufficiently high community profit to appear in print, be picked up by lexicographers, and come to be recorded in dictionaries. Today, a new word can achieve a global profile within hours. It seems likely that the Internet will speed up the process of language change.

It may do not need any discussion to agree that several neologisms only exist because the Internet made them. According to Crystal examples for those would be: “blog, blogging, and blogger” (Crystal 2006: 58).

2.1 The Function of Online Language

Before being able to talk about the online world and its communication possibilities, it is mandatory to characterize and tear down the aspects of its particular language, since this component is what shapes the online cosmos. In the beginning of her book Always on: Language in an Online and Mobile World, Naomi Baron (2010: 11) gives the following example that shows why the development of new words is a constant ongoing process that is highly influenced by technology:

As technology has evolved, new devices have often been named (at least temporarily) by familiar words and concepts. The telephone was originally designed as a “harmonic telegraph.” What today we call movies were first known as “talking pictures” or “talkies”.

Nowadays technology is mainly used to be able to communicate even though one has to overcome a certain distance. The development that has become the most important one concerning the overcoming of this distance is the Internet. Saving time might count as the main aim of online communication. People do not want to wait until they come home to be able to call. It is more attractive to write message, preferably with abbreviations to safe even more time, to skip personal communication. The World Wide Web has revolutionized the possibilities of communication and made instant conversations even more attractive than the ones that occur fact-to-face.

In addition of categorizing the Internet as the modern communication-tool, Baron goes into more detail by discussing emailing: “[…] written messages could be transmitted only if there were a system for linking machines together” (Baron 2010: 12). Of course she refers to technologized communication and if one uses emails, another person has to use it too in order of staying economic. Nevertheless, this concept can easily be applied to ‘speaker’ and ‘listener’ concept according to the Speech Act theory because “language is used for getting things done” (Heylen 2009, website). If one participant is not aware of communication via technology and of the linguistic features within the online language world, a communication between those two would be presumably impossible because the participants would not ‘link’ with each other.

3. How Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Influences our Lives

The 20th century was a century of change, since it brought the Internet into domestic homes and therefore caused a revolution. The original theory of the purpose was abandoned very quickly and regarding to this Greiffenstern (2010: 1) has made the following statement:

The Internet was originally set up as a shared information space for governments and academic institutions. In the first days of the Internet, it was not expected to develop into a means for people all over the world to communicate with each other.

The Internet is always seen as THE medium of a modern life and it “offers many opportunities for interpersonal communication.

Apart from emails there are chat rooms, listservs, newsgroups, MUDs, MOOs, instant messenger and blog” (Greiffenstern 2010: 2). Like these communication rooms show, the Internet brought the possibility for talking for away from the offline world. The topic and the ability of communicating with each other should never be underestimated, since this is what guides us our whole life, makes life easier and defines with whom we get along and whom we allow to step into our social circle.

According to this, Sandra Greiffenstern captions Internet communication as: “the most controversial one” (Greiffenstern 2010: 2). As she goes one she on the one hand says: “[…] online shopping, online banking and e-government have positive effects” (Greiffenstern 2010: 2), on the other hand she says: “when it comes to […] email, instant messages, chat rooms and text messages […] some see a negative influence on the use of language, fear a deterioration of language due to the language features” (Greiffenstern 2010: 2).

She does show the controversy in her statements as she opposes the positive and the negative effects that were brought along with the Internet. Besides of those already mentioned aspects there is still the fear of “[…] especially young people might no longer know correct spelling and grammar” (Greiffenstern 2010: 2). Obviously this would be an immense loss of language and the ability of using it. This statement is not at all made up out of thin air, since she mentions the fact that: “In New Zealand, pupils are now even allowed to use abbreviations and other language features from text messages and online communication in papers they write in school” (Greiffenstern 2010: 3).

3.1 Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Communication Media

It is not against expectation that the wide range of computer-mediated communication has many facets to offer. In terms of categorizing this communication type with the aim of understanding it better, one has the option to divide the spectrum into asynchronous and synchronous communication and investigate both contingencies. In addition to those two categories N. Baron (Baron 2010: 14) asks the following questions:

1. “Does the communication happen in real time (synchronous), or do senders ship off their messages for recipients to open at their convenience (asynchronous)?”
2. “Is the communication intended for a single person (one-to-one) or for a larger audience (one-to-many)?”

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten1

According to Naomi S. Baron: Always on: Language in an Online and Mobile World (p. 14)

To make these categories more plausible, examples – according to N. Baron (Baron 2010: 14) – are given in the following to make distinguishing easier:

One-to-One: Asynchronous


This explanation leads us back to the first question from above: “Do senders ship off their messages for recipients to open at their convenience?” This question already draws the attention to the flexibility of emailing. It is barely common or possible that one gets an immediate response after sending an email. However, Baron clarifies its affiliation to asynchronism by saying: ”Senders and recipients are free to broadcast messages as they see fit, either publicly or sub rosa” (Baron 2010: 16).

One-to-One: Synchronous

Instant Messaging

With instant messages it is the other way around, they belong to the category of synchrony. As the term “instant” already implies, those messages are only sent “(…) when I know you are online and there is good reason to anticipate a boomerang reply” (Baron 2010: 17).

One-to-Many: Asynchronous

Blogs (= Web Logs)

Nowadays blogs are very common and popular. The way they work is very simple: One posts articles about topics of interest and others react by writing comments. This medium belongs to the category of asynchronism because, as well as with emails, comments are not answered immediately and this is also nothing that is usually expected. Blogs mostly work as “encouraging teenage girls to keep online diaries” (Baron 2010: 20).



Excerpt out of 15 pages


The Influence of Modern Electronic Media on the Usage of the English Language
University of Potsdam
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
influence, modern, electronic, media, usage, english, language
Quote paper
Miriam B. (Author), 2019, The Influence of Modern Electronic Media on the Usage of the English Language, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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