Social Networks to the Rescue of Regionalisms

As linguists, many times we find ourselves perplexed, surprised, and even horrified at the very unorthodox and distant way in which increasing numbers of people communicate by means of social networks and instant messaging. On a global level, it would seem as if we are seeing the beginning of the apocalypse of spelling and grammar. Language aside, we see how words, so sacred to us, are massacred, all for the sake of following the pace of speed and immediacy of communication that the internet offers. Is this about a willful transgression of the rules, ignorance about their existence, or is it sloth? It would seem as if the necessity of speed plays a preponderant role, but we also find that the proliferation of electronic and immediate communication not only brings about the degradation of language…

Besides the linguistic “horrors” that we may find, the speed and information of these “new” forms of communication also lead us to an increasing amount of colloquialisms. As opposed to the past, when these expressions mainly disseminated slowly from mouth to mouth, in the World Wide Web, they disseminate, aright, on a worldwide scale. Thus, certain regionalisms begin to be used in places very far away from their source, and some expressions that were previously exclusive to one region now become part of the usual lexicon of people who have no connection to that region. As an example, we can cite the practically global use of certain acronyms and initials in English, such as OMG, LOL, BTW, ASAP, and FYI, which have been scattered around the world mainly by memes, social networks, and the use of e-mail. In a more limited environment, linguistic experts in the UK have found that it is increasingly normal to hear people living in the north of the United Kingdom using expressions such a lush or tidy, which are used in Wales in order to say that something is attractive; or hearing people in the south of the UK use the term mint, which is used in the Manchester area to indicate that something is good. Many of those cases are starting to be recognized not as pertaining to one sole language, but rather to something broader, that is, some regionalisms become colloquialisms belonging to the language that encompasses those regionalisms, and some colloquialisms of one language are beginning to form part of a universal language.

Although it is true that the speed of the new forms of communication lead to a more lax use of grammar and spelling rules, that same speed and laxity also lead to a spreading of a more natural and personal use of language; and it is the use of a language that allows for its evolution and survival. We should not forget that language is, in some ways, a living organism that evolves, develops, and strengthens with use. If it is contained within a limited geographical space and with a limited number of speakers, it wilts and eventually dies. But movement is life, and thus speed and immediacy of communication in social networks and their lack of boundaries are keeping alive and spreading many regionalisms and dialects that nourish languages with new expressions, enriching and making them more colorful and expressive.