How Language Changes and New Words Are Created

The evolution of language is an interesting thing. It happens every day in every culture. From Shakespearean language to the abbreviated text message, language is capable of evolving in extraordinary ways. There are new words appearing everyday making it difficult to understand how they change. Now there are programs that are constantly scanning the web for new words and phrases it has become easier for language to be tracked and expanded. With new words appearing everyday it can become difficult to understand how they evolve.

Over time all languages change. In early history, language changed due to migration, colonization, and invasions. As of recently language has been evolving due to new technologies, products, industries and experiences that require new words. When you use a new word you are inspiring change in the way we use language. With each individual using the language in his or her own way it also helps to change how we use language.

The change in language happens in different ways. Meanings of words change as the cultures evolve. When sounds interact it may change the way they originally sounded and were used. Words are then created from different sounds interacting. Those words are then added to sentences to express new or old meanings.

Adding new words to the dictionary takes time. The Oxford Dictionary uses the Oxford English Corpus and the Oxford Reading Programme. The Oxford English Corpus is a collection of texts of written or spoken language presented in electronic form. The Oxford English Corpus tracks and records what new words are being used. It also includes the context in which they are used. This helps to find new trends in usage and spelling. The Oxford mainly searches the World Wide Web (WWW). It scans text from academic journals, novels, newspapers, magazines, blogs, emails and social media.

The Oxford Reading Programme is also a key aspect in adding new words to the dictionary. The Reading Programme is an electronic collection of sentences or short extract taken from a large variety of writing. Anything from scientific journals to music lyrics are collected. While the Reading Programme scans the WWW and collects this data while an international network of readers look for new words and meanings or other language changes.

Over the last five years the Oxford Dictionary had added quite a few new words. It includes:

  • Binge-watch
  • Neckbeard
  • Hot mess
  • YOLO
  • Cray

Although new words are added to the dictionary every year, new definitions of words already in the dictionary are being added as well. A new meaning for brick was recently added to the dictionary in reference to a large smart phone that is typically an earlier model that had limited functionality.

Language is always changing and becoming something new. People are still able to communicate with one another. As technology becomes more advanced so does the language and the ways we use it. Today we are a multimedia society. We abbreviate words and communicate without actually having to make a sound. Maybe in 30 years we wouldn’t even have to do that. With change always happening language must adapt quickly for those who use it.

By: Theresa Hickey, Accounting Major – IUPUC

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