In the past century, the world has changed past the point of recognition. Although globalization has arguably been occurring since the dawn of humanity, globalization has been occurring at a rate previously unseen; today, people move around the world more quickly and with greater ease than ever before. Along with this greater ease of travel and intercultural exchange came the need for a functional language that could operate as a global language of sorts. Because of a variety of sociopolitical factors and historical events, English seems to have become the frontrunner as the global business language. Many proponents of maintaining language purity suggest that the outside influences of second-language speakers, as well as technological influences like text speak are corrupting the English language. However, this takes a very xenophobic and narrow view of language and the function of language as a whole.
The first, and perhaps most important thing to note about the English language is that English is a conglomerate language. English was born not from Latin or any other single Eurasian root, but instead was originally a mix of a multitude of different languages. English has roots in the Germanic tongues, but there are also words pulled from French, Italian, and Spanish that are accepted into the lexicon with no question whatsoever (Bailey). To say that accepting certain words into the English language from other languages is corrupting the language is a silly argument to make, as historically, English was a vernacular conglomerate, not an official tongue in the same way that Italian, Spanish, or Latin was (Bailey).
As globalization changes the way the world looks and increases the contact that is had between peoples of different cultures, there becomes more and more of a reason to accept and adopt new words into shared language. For instance, in the United States, there is a backlash against Spanish speakers in some places, and people claim that their methods of changing the language are corrupting the purity of English. However, without adopting words like “taco,” “burrito,” or “El Nino” into the English vernacular, the English language would be incomplete, lacking vibrancy and color when it comes to explaining and adopting new ideas (Crystal). One of the reasons English has been so successful on the global stage is because the language is so willing to adopt new words and ideas for use (Crystal).
The idea of corrupting a language is a nebulous and sticky concept, as languages change necessarily over time. If languages could not change and evolve to contain new ideas, there would be no words for computer or bicycle; indeed, language itself would stagnate and become obsolete. However, there are very real reasons for certain conventions when it comes to writing and communicating, and adhering to these conventions is important. While it is difficult to say that language has been corrupted by things like email and text speak, there is no doubt that the conventions of language are changing in certain mediums. However, it is quite reactionary to say that because some mediums demand or foster changes to typical conventions of written language that written language is being corrupted by those mediums.
Texting, for instance, allows only a certain number of characters; this causes people using texts to communicate to shorten their words, sometimes abbreviating in ways that are inappropriate in more formal types of communication, like legal writing or journalism.
However, this does not mean that texting, Twitter, or any other form of communication that fosters or encourages fewer conventions as far as grammar and spelling are concerned is bad for the English language. In fact, texting from a young age may actually increase a child’s ability to read quickly and comprehensively; when combined with a good education, there is no reason that a functional individual cannot be able to text using abbreviations and then write more formally when the situation calls for it. If there is an inability to do this, it is not the fault of the media that the individual is using, but rather a problem with the educational system that the individual is a part of.
Language is ever-evolving, and this is not a bad thing at all. Without evolution, there can be no true expansion; English has been so successful as a global language not only because of historical accidents, but also because if its ability to absorb new information, words, and ideas into the fabric of the language. Trying to imagine the English language without the flexibility of adopting new words from different cultures is difficult at best, and impossible at worst: English was founded on the idea of adopting from other languages, and no calls for language purity will change that.
In addition to be a language built on adoption and borrowing, today there is no real standard for English. A native English speaker from America speaks differently from a native English speaker from Australia or Britain, and even within English-speaking countries there are drastic regional differences. Even though accents change and evolve due to geographical location, very few people would argue that having an accent is a corruption of the language; indeed, very few people could decide on a “gold standard” of English, so to speak, even if they were pressed to do so.
The important thing is not whether or not change to the language will cause “corruption” of the language; instead, the important thing to understand about English is that the language will continue to change, as it comes into contact with a variety of different peoples, technologies, and cultures. With that contact will come new words and ideas, and communicating clearly and effectively to everyone should be the ultimate goal of speaking English.
Bailey, Richard W. Images of English. [S.l.]: The University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.
Crystal, David. English as a global language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Kirkpatrick, Andy. World Englishes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.