• Question: do you think our language could become more complicated in the future?

    Asked by alevy42 to Suzanne, Nadine, Daniel, Carolyn on 8 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Carolyn McGettigan

      Carolyn McGettigan answered on 8 Jan 2018:

      Intriguing question! I guess there are lots of ways in which language might become more complicated.

      Taking the example of English, we know that our language is constantly growing as we need new words for things in our world – “ringtone” and “post-truth” have only very recently made it into the Oxford English Dictionary! So, as more words are around, that can add to the complexity and richness of the language.

      But will the way we say things become more complicated? In a sense, the aim should be to make language less complex and more efficient over time, rather than the other way round. Sometimes styles of communication change with fashion, and that can affect the words we use and the ways we put together words in sentences. Perhaps those changes will sometimes involve added complexity in future, but they could easily make things simpler or more efficient.

      There are often arguments that modern technologies such as texting and online messaging are harming language in some way, making it less “proper”. But it’s important to remember that languages are always changing. Languages are doing the job of enabling people to communicate ideas with each other – as long as the message gets across, it’s not so important how that happens. Thus, we now find that we can add more colour and emphasis to our written language with emojis, and so everyday written conversation in English now often involves words and pictures. These changes will be interesting to observe in the coming years – what trends will disappear, and which will make a more lasting impact?