The internet is changing language less than curmudgeons fear.
Ⅰ What is technology doing to language？ Many assume the answer is simple： ruining it. Language experts tend to resist that gloom， noting that there is little proof that speech is really degenerating. Nor is formal writing falling apart. Fortunately， the story of language and the internet has attracted more serious analysts， too. Now Gretchen McCulloch joins them with a new book， “Because Internet”. Rather than obsessing about what the internet is doing to language， it largely focuses on what can be learned about language from the internet.
Ⅱ Biologists grow bacteria in a Petri dish partly because of those organisms short lifespans： they are born and reproduce so quickly that studies over many generations can be done in a reasonably short period. Studying language online is a bit like that： trends appear and disappear， platforms rise and fall， and these let linguists observe dynamics that would otherwise take too much time.
Ⅲ For example， why do languages change？ A thousand years ago， early versions of English and Icelandic were closely related， possibly even mutually intelligible. English has since evolved hugely， and Icelandic， far less. Linguists have studied the relative effects of strong ties （friends， family） and weaker acquaintanceships in such patterns， hypothesising that small communities would host more stable languages. A computer simulation proved that a mix of strong and weak ties—close-knit groups existing in a larger sea—allowed language-change “leaders” to circulate updates to the wider population. Twitter combines strong and weak ties—and sure enough， drives more language change than Facebook， which is more dominated by strong ties. That， in turn， helps explain the conservatism of Icelandic （more like Facebook） and the inconsistency of English （more like Twitter）.
Ⅳ Emoji， odd as they may look， also reflect something universal. They are not a language. They are， Ms McCulloch argues， the digital equivalent of gestures. Other online “innovations” are not really new， either. The first use of “omg” long preceded computers. Those who worry about teens speaking “hashtag” aloud might consider the last time they punctuated an utterance by saying “full stop” or “period”.
Ⅴ In the end， Ms McCullochs book is about the birth of a new medium rather than a new language. For millennia， speech was all there was. For most of recorded history， nearly everyone was illiterate. Then， in the age of the printing press and mass literacy， writing acquired a kind of primacy， seen as prestigious， a standard to be learned and imitated.
Ⅵ Future historians may regard that era of respect as unusual. Mass reading has now been joined by mass writing： frequent， error-filled and short-lived—like speech. Little surprise that internet users have created tools to give their writing the gesture， playfulness and even meaninglessness of chitchat. Mistaking it for the downfall of real writing is a category error. Anything that helps people enjoy each others company can only be a good thing.
1. intelligible 【ɪnˈtelɪdʒəbəl】 a.容易理解的
2. acquaintanceship 【əˈkweɪntənsʃɪp】 n.相 识，泛泛之交
3. hypothesise 【haɪˈpɒəsaɪz】 v.假设
4. conservatism 【kənˈsɜːvəˌtɪzəm】 n.保守性，稳健性
5. inconsistency 【ˌɪnkənˈsɪstənsɪ】 n.不一致性，易变性
6. punctuate 【ˈpʌŋktʃueɪt】 v.给…加标点；不时打断
7. prestigious 【preˈstɪdʒəs】 a.有威望的
8. chitchat 【ˈtʃɪttʃæt】 n.闲聊
本句主干为Linguists have studied A and B ， hypothesising that …。语言学家研究了这类模式下“牢固关系亲戚朋友”与“较为淡薄的泛泛之交”对语言的相对影响，并假设小群体拥有更稳定的语言。
AA tend to do sth， noting that there is little proof that BB is/does sth. Nor is/does CC….AA倾向于…，指出几乎没有证据表明BB….CC也并未…。