How Has Language Changed Over Time: the Place for Various Influences

Language is constantly evolving and changing around us while adjusting to the needs and period of times for the speakers. As long as the language users require the use of words and phrases which carry on changing, so will the language. Parents, grandparents or people from the later generations often become dissatisfied about the ‘poor English’ that is being used by the younger generation. However, language change is so gradual each year that we hardly realise it. Nowadays, attempting to read something from the sixteenth century like Shakespeare’s writings, can already be a challenging task. Returning back a couple more centuries, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are even more difficult, and if you were to try and read Beowulf another 500 years back, it would pretty much be like reading a completely different language. This essay will further discuss how has language changed over time and developed based on technology and social media and will also briefly explore the changes due to the people surrounding us.

It is evident that digitisation, the internet and social media networks have shifted and refined how people in this generation and the generation to come, to communicate. The vast development of modern technology has enabled people to converse with each other without having to be in the same area. Many applications and in-built software inside smartphones, tablets or laptops also conveniently allow us to get in touch with friends and families that live apart from us, or even people we haven’t even met.

How Has Language Changed Over Time: the Impact of Digitalization

A new type of language that has been widespread across young people for a while now, is texting language. It is a common and most recent form of communication since the arrival of advanced technologies like smartphones, internet and digital media. The world of texting has created its own expression and approach to language which can range from sending abbreviations, images or gifs. It is rather different from other forms of written communication for various reasons. First, by texting, you’re unable to distinguish if the person’s tone is happy, sad, angry or annoyed which may lead to confusion or misunderstandings. For example, if someone was to send the same message to a few different people, they may interpret the meaning in an entirely different way. This is why sometimes people prefer to send images, gifs or emojis to express their emotions since this is something that is not seen through texting. Memes are also used to create humour or an inside joke which may contain a back story. Also, people don’t necessarily like to read and comprehend a bunch of words on a screen, however when a gif or video is sent, it allows us to understand what the person on the other side of the screen is trying to convey without using much brain effort. On the other hand, emojis can represent gestures, facial expressions, tone and body language which makes communicating with the other party more realistic and entertaining. 

The amount of applications that have been created to allow you to easily make free phone calls domestically and internationally, made more people use social media platforms. Voice recording functions are also built into these apps for people if they aren’t bothered to type out long sentences. Not only that, texters are often criticized for their use of language being influenced by their language used in texting. This occurs because of the amount of shortened, made-up words and acronyms that have formed. These acronyms eventually changed in meaning and became much broader. Instead of writing proper long phrases or sentences, people relied on acronyms, shortened words and placing words next to each other, which expressed their main point. These phrases may not necessarily be grammatically correct, but the idea is there which keeps the messaging going. Spelling is more or less non-existent in the texting world which is probably an excuse for simple and quick messages. However, not only did the misspelling allow for the communication to be quick, it also assisted the two parties to distinguish each other by creating a new language of their own which was often infuriating for the older generations who had grown up being taught the traditional rules of spelling the grammar. For example, ‘LOL’ (Laughing Out Loud) was used solely as a representation for amusement, but now it’s used as an expression or reaction for pretty much anything. If someone was to text “Oi, did you hand in jap hw yet”, the other party would text back, “lol, nup imma hand it in next class or smthg.” LOL basically signifies the empathy between the two texters which eases tension and creates a sense of equality. Instead of having a literal meaning to the acronym, it conveys an attitude.Most people believe that texting is harming young students’ writing abilities. Not only will the constant use of short form texting make the young children unable to distinguish the differences between formal and informal styles of writing, their spelling and grammar skills will also be affected.

The Impact of Social and Cultural Interactions

Depending on where people live, their age, how they were raised and educated, their background, social status and other influences, the terminology, phrases and vocabulary that people use are different. Through daily interactions with other people, we naturally discover and acquire new words and sayings through them, which are then incorporated into our own style of speech. For example, teenagers and young adults often pick up different words and phrases they hear from their parents or other elderlies. While picking up these new words, not only does this help widen vocabulary, it also combines to make a type of speech that is new and unlike other people. Furthermore, when young adults interact with people similar to their own age, their vocabulary develops and begins to comprise of words and constructions that are different to the older generation. Video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion or just television can also change the way people speak. Much like how people pick up words and phrases from the people surrounding them, watching videos can also allow you to broaden knowledge. New words come from many different occasions: borrowing words from other languages like the French word baguette, creating shorter words from long words like app from application for easier pronunciation, or using portmanteau which is joining two different words together to become one word and create a new expression e.g. chillax from chill and relax or Chinglish from Chinese and English. 

Languages generally have a specific word sequence to follow in order to maintain grammar and understanding, however, alternative word sequences are sometimes used when a speaker requires an emphasis in certain areas of a sentence. English nowadays generally comprise of alternative orders changing the syntax, however, there is a wider range of space for changing the order in many other languages and still making sense. Several synthetic languages such as Latin, Greek, Persian, Romanian, Assyrian, Russian, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Finnish, and Basque don’t necessarily have a certain word order they are to follow strictly. Instead, their sentence structure is highly flexible and reflects the pragmatics of the utterance. These dissimilarities can include sounds, pronunciation, alphabet and word order. For example, Japan’s current English teaching curriculum goals is that students should be able to speak somewhat similar to native Americans. This is first of all unrealistic and also brings a disadvantage to ELT. This only gives the students low self-esteem and feeling fearful of speaking because of the constant false accusing of ‘poor speakers’ unless they sounded like Americans. Studies show that the in the classroom, there is too much emphasis on grammar and minimal time devoted to real life conversational practices. Majority of their studies are based on listening as opposed to being active in conversations. Due to this reason and many other reasons from other countries, international people tend to have issues with communicating fluently and still having some grammatical errors anyway. Since Western countries are quite internationally welcoming, many people from Asia are going over for holidays or studying. 


There are many reasons which explain how has language changed over the time. Few of them are the impact of technology development, social and cultural interactions as well as modern tendences. When surrounded by people who may not have the best grammar in sentences or pronunciations to words, language begins to change as people pick up some of the speech styles unknowingly. As a result of this, the sounds of a language change over time too.  The reasons of language change may be caused by the new technology, new products, and new events in life may request for new words in order to be able to refer to them free from uncertainty and in an efficient manner. Another reason for language change is that not everyone has been exposed to the exact same language experiences. People all have a different knowledge when it comes to a set of words and formations which all depend on age, occupation, education level, region of country, and so on. 

03 July 2023
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