Review Because Internet: Understanding the new rules of language (a review)

original work by GRETCHEN MCCULLOCH reviewed by MICHAEL CARRIER

Gretchen McCulloch is a Canadian linguist, podcaster and blogger who writes extensively about language use on the Internet. Unlike many commentators, she is a qualified expert (with a Master’s in Linguistics) and so can base her insights on theory and research as well as her own opinions. The thesis of the book is that the English language is changing faster than before, because of the influence of the Internet. She suggests that online communities develop their own slang and jargon and this spreads much more rapidly (especially through social media) than previous linguistic changes ever could. In addition, we consciously change the way we express ourselves in order to fit into new media systems – like character restrictions on Twitter, abbreviations in texts, and emoji in WhatsApp and Messenger. The book explores these changes and new forms of expression, and looks at the interaction between language use and the development and spread of memes, the rapid spread of new types of message. For example, she explains how tildes (~) become a new punctuation form to express irony. Or how certain emoji reflect physical gestures in the real world. And when people are likely to be more careless or more precise in spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, etc. when composing messages.

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