Is language dying or evolving?

Evolution doesn’t imply improvement or progressive change towards perfection. In a straight darwinian sense, evolution means adapting to one’s environment in order to survive and endure, for the environment is ever changing, and so must we.

All living creatures adapt to a constantly mutable environment, and so does language in a very organic, spontaneous and unforeseeable way. This is how William S. Burroughs described language in his novel The Ticket that Exploded: a highly contagious virus, a living, sentient organism struggling to survive.

We must admit we’ve put language through a lot lately, haven’t we? Think of those cruel, lawless millennials with their cool hashtags and their revolting emojis, those smiling little turds confidently smirking at the imminent death of language as we know it. But language has mutated and language has survived. Language has transcended the written and spoken word, and language might be evolving into something entirely different.

So what’s next in this absurd mess of it all? Well, it seems “Gifs” might just be the new popular syntagma.Not only have they become a billion dollar industry in the past 5 years (just ask Alex Chung co-founder and CEO of GIPHY) but they have grown in popularity and seem to be just about everywhere these days.

In this sense, it seems language might be gradually evolving into something more cinematic; perhaps, even audiovisual now that we have a means of communication that could support this content.

People are using WhatsApp (among other smartphone applications) to replace written messages with audio clips. It’s easier, it’s lazier, but it gets meaning through to the other side just as effectively.

Popular graphic language in its traditional visual form has existed for over a century. It has existed in comics as a sequence of still images and in cinema as moving pictures. But today, these animated syntagmas have become part of our daily communication. Memes and animated gifs generate suspense, surprise, fear and delight in our e-mails and our live WhatsApp chats. They are the conveyors of emotion and bearers of meaning that stand in the place of mere words.

So pervasive have images become that they are beginning to appear even in platforms that do not support them. Take for instance this conversation:

-Hey, how did you do on that Chemistry exam?
-Oh, bummer.bat

Referencing an image not only adds drama and emotion to a conversation, but also gives a precise meaning: in this case, not knowing any of the answers to a test. It takes the place of old metaphors, such as drawing a blank. Are we all familiar with how the lottery worked in Tudor England? Hellnaw.jpg

Spoken and written language, as it borrows from the language of cinema and comics, ushers in a host of rich, new cultural references, those relevant to a new generation. My claim is these forms of language don’t hinder, but rather enable communication; they do not dilute, but actually enrich it.

Mathematics, as an alternative form of “language” haven’t completely died in a sense, but the daily required solving skills of having to calculate stuff on a small piece of paper or in our own heads (having to solve those problems ourselves) have been widely replaced by the use of calculators, which are now installed by default in every smartphone and computer.

Will written language suffer the same fate? Will it evolve into something grander and unexpected? I, for one, hope very much to be surprised.

So, whether you have some intricate material or more colloquial content that needs to get through, rest assured that we at Trusted Translations can always offer you an accurate way to convey its meaning while preserving its style, whatever the medium may be.