The greengrocer’s apostrophe and the ‘ten items’ supermarket sign. MEGAN PIKE investigates our continuing obsession with language ‘correctness’

Once upon a time, ‘silly’ used to refer to things which were blessed or worthy, and ‘nice’ made reference to someone who was silly. The English language is forever evolving and changing…. Fact! (TED, 2014) So why do people fight so hard to preserve and maintain this ‘perfect’ English language? Why do they continue to fight a losing battle?

Firstly, we should address exactly who these people are: they are often referred to as prescriptivists (although others may have a slightly different name for them). When there is a grammar mistake on a Facebook post, they will be there to comment. When Tesco’s say ‘ten items or less’ rather than ‘ten items or fewer’, you can guarantee they will have their pens at the ready to complain. They believe that the English language should be regulated, and that a correct way of speaking and writing should be ‘prescribed’ (Crystal, 2006).  But the real question is, do they have a point?

Aitchison (1997, pp. 9-14) explored how people’s obsession with maintaining the language stems from the fears and worries that come with language change. With three (slightly overlapping) ideas she explains the main concerns with the English language with what she labels ‘the damp spoon syndrome’, ‘the crumbling castle effect’ and ‘the infectious diseases theory’. In all of these ideas the English language is referred to as a physical entity that can be tarnished in some way. From new words coming in to the language being described as a disease to colloquial language being related to the same laziness that would cause someone to use a wet spoon to get sugar, these accusations paint language change in a vividly negative way.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the descriptivists. They believe in the observation of language change rather than attempting to regulate it (Trask, 2007 p. 69). The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), often referred to as the ‘authority’ on the English language, are themselves descriptivist. Over the past 150 years they have documented the change of English over the last 1,000 years. Because of this we can now trace the origins of over 600,000 words (OED, 2016). They aim to change with the language, not cause a change in language. Many linguists support this approach to language change, with Lakoff (as reported in Cameron, 1995, p.4) reporting that as long as language change comes from within and is an unconscious process rather than an attempt to manipulate the language, then language change is healthy.

If we take language in its bare form, as a form of communication, then as long as the change does not hinder communication, then surely change is good. David Crystal (2006, p.455) explains this idea through the example of the ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’. If a greengrocer was to misuse an apostrophe on his sign displaying what he has in the shop, it would have no effect on the legibility or connotations of the sign. Whether he sells ‘potatoes’’ or ‘potatoe’s’, the place of the apostrophe does not affect the message, so why should it matter? The message is still conveyed, therefore the texts meets its purpose.

However, although there are many positives to allowing language change, prescriptivists have a point. There are many cases of careless punctuation that, for example, would confuse the message behind it and therefore lose clarity. For example, there is a very big difference between ‘let’s eat, grandma’ and ‘let’s eat grandma’! The comma is essential for differentiating between eating with grandma or eating grandma.  There is also the issue of how far should we let change happen. In 2015 the Oxford English Dictionary made its word of the year a ‘crying with laughter emoji’ (OED, 2016), and even many open minded people would agree that this is perhaps pushing it too far.

Obviously, there is no stopping language change, and generally I tend to side more with descriptivism. However, sometimes the careless use of a comma, lack of a full stop or misapplication of a word can result in major misunderstandings and, at times like this, it makes far more sense to side with the prescriptivists. Hence, if the best aspects are taken from both extremes of the debate then we can reach a balance, which will allow the language to grow without loss of legibility.

MEGAN PIKE, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester


Aitchison, J. (1997). The language web: the power and problems of words. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Cameron, D. (1995). Verbal Hygiene, The politics of Language. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Crystal, D. (2006). How language works: how babies babble, words change meanings and languages live or die. London, United Kingdom: Penguin.

OED Online. (2016). Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 17, 2016, from

TED. (2014). Ideas TED. Retrieved April 1, 2016.

Trask, R. L. (1999). Language: the basics. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.


Is English ‘assassinating’ local languages? Or are they committing suicide? by RACHEL SADLER

A ‘killer’ language? English has become a global lingua franca for many of the ‘outer circle’ countries. It is thought that the huge increase in the number of English speakers has endangered small indigenous languages. This is causing people to claim that English is murdering local languages or forcing them to commit suicide.

The globalisation of the English language, is much bigger than the tiny island in which the language has derived from. English as a world language is not an isolate. Much of its vocabulary has been borrowed from other world languages for science and technology. Fishman (2001, p.6) believes that ‘[g]lobalisation is the wave of the future’, so change was unescapable. McLuhan (1964) talks of the ‘global village’, an interconnected world, through the invention of the computer in the late twentieth-century. The technology originated from the English speaking world, and therefore English became its lingua franca. It’s all very well pointing the finger at English. But without the spread of this unifying language through urbanisation, there simply would not be a branch of communication for rural communities.

Britain is now the minority in the amount of English speakers, with a population of sixty-four million. The inner circle countries who were once colonised by the English, have contributed to its globalisation, like America for example that holds over two-hundred million English speakers. In fact, according to the 2007 census all of the inner circle countries, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have populations of at least eighty-percent or higher that speak English as their first language.

Due to the colonisation of many countries, English was thrust upon outer circle countries. Kenya for instance, gained their independence from Britain in 1963, but English still prevailed as a global language for many. Schneider (2011, p.211) notes, ‘[T]he New Primary Approach’ was introduced in Kenya’s elementary schools, which saw the endangerment of their mother tongue. This also seeped into their family homes as many parents thought English would give their children a better edge later on in life.

Nettle & Romaine (2000, p.8) claim that ‘[t]he pulse of a language clearly lies in the youngest generation’. This illustrates one cause of language death, because if languages are not passed down to the younger speakers, they will inevitably dye out. Egbokhare (1999) investigated the Emai-speaking region of Nigeria, finding that whilst adults hold their vernacular language, the younger speakers are opting to only speak their indigenous language whilst addressing the older generation, and would opt to speak English at all other times. Schneider (2011, p.214) believes this has sparked the loss of ‘community’s cultural and historical roots’, and interestingly notes that the ‘British administrators’ did not promote the learning of English within indigenous populations. Through the colonisation period, English was ‘withheld from the masses’ and was only passed onto the ‘loyal local elites’.

Crystal (2000, p.78) explains that this all stems from the ‘immense pressure’ that people feel to speak a ‘dominant language’ like English, in order to gain ‘political, social or economic sources’. English is seen as a powerful prestigious language with great social wealth. But, is this necessarily a case of English murdering local languages? Or are these communities committing language suicide. If you consider both sides of the debate here, English is arguably a platform to progress from. But the price these indigenous speakers seemingly have to pay is their mother tongue.

However, through a process called ‘language mixing’, some speakers have combined their mother tongue with the global language. Schneider (2011, p. 222) discusses how English is not replacing indigenous languages, instead it is adding to the local language habits and contributing to the ‘growth of cultural hybridity’. Students in Hong Kong chose not to lose their cultural identity, and created ‘mix mix’, so they have combined their local language with English, which I think is culturally creative and a gateway of communication within small communities.

So, is English a language ‘killer’ or a language promoter? Evidently, those within the inner circle have benefited greatly from the higher profit that has been achieved through the teaching of English for western-style development. Some may claim that this is at others expense, but the new varieties of English can also express culture. I believe that people do have a choice, so the claims that a world language has been forced down people’s throats is a bit over-exaggerated. Perhaps these smaller communities should stop committing language suicide if they are so worried about losing their cultural identity. Stop conforming to the identity that society has constructed for you.

RACHEL SADLER, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Crystal, D. (2000). Language Death. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 

Fishman, A. (2001). Can threatened languages be saved? Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Nettle, D. & Romaine, S. (2000). Vanishing voices: The extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Schneider, E. (2011) English around the world New York: Cambridge University Press.



Is language death just an inevitable result of natural evolutionary processes? ZAKA KHALID investigates

In recent times, the English Language has spread across the globe like wildfire, aided partly by its supposed simplicity, partly by its perceived usefulness and partly due to its status as a prestigious language. A language that began its life on a small island in the North Sea is now being taught in schools in far-away lands such as China and India. In fact, the popularity of English is now so high that it is often labelled as a ‘killer language’.  As David Crystal puts it, “English is a vacuum-cleaner of a language” (Crystal, 2000).

Recent estimates suggest that there are over 1.5 billion speakers of English, which equates to one quarter of the total population (Crystal, 2000). Native English speakers benefit greatly from this statistic, as it eliminates the need for them to spend their precious time grafting away learning a new language. Indeed, 75% of Britons are unable to speak a foreign language (Paton, 2013), though this is likely down to complacency, as suggested by recent figures which show a drop in the number of modern foreign languages being taken at A-level (Ratcliffe, 2013). When your language needs are catered for at every airport and every major city across the world, where is the incentive for Brits to learn French, German or Mandarin?

A phenomenon called linguistic imperialism refers to the transfer of a dominant language to other people. Robert Phillipson asserts that imperialism is a key factor in the emergence of English in postcolonial settings such as India and Pakistan. Additionally, he cites linguistic discrimination as another key factor in the prominence of English, (Phillipson, 1992). It is also suggested that  ‘English is the passport to success and upward social mobility’ and ‘English is the key to national progress’ are some common clichés that are interspersed; more importantly, these clichés reflect the perception of many people – both rich and poor – in discussing future life chances for their children (Shamim, 2011).

So whilst the entire world is seemingly rushing to learn English, and native English speakers are happy to rest on their laurels, smaller languages are finding themselves in a precarious position. It is estimated that 3,500 of the world’s languages (that’s around half of the total number of languages in the world!) are spoken by a minuscule 0.1% of the population (Harmon 1995, 2002; data source: Lewis et al. 2013). These languages vary in number of speakers, with the smallest ones being used by less than ten individuals, whilst the biggest are used by no more than ten thousand. According to UNESCO, ‘if nothing is done, half of 6,000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century (Unesco, 2016). As the world trends towards cultural and economic globalisation, these languages are being abandoned by their speakers in favour of those which will offer them the greatest opportunities in life, such as English.

UNESCO uses the term ‘endangered’ when speaking about such languages, as if to say that language death is comparable to the extinction of animals. Most people would probably scoff at such a suggestion, but does the death of a language result in the loss of much more than just words?

It is widely agreed that language and culture are closely related, and it has been stated that ‘cultures have evolved in a particular environmental context, so they have an extraordinary amount of traditional ecological knowledge — knowledge of the local species, plants, animals, the medicinal uses of them, the migration patterns of animals behaviour’ (Rosenthal, 2014). This relationship can be given further credence when observing countries such as India, which is said to be home to over 100 million English speakers (The Times of India, 2010). The rise of English in India has paved the way for the rise of Western culture alongside it, with some Indians blaming Westernisation for the increase in single families and a decrease in the showing of respect amongst Indians (Khirbawhani, 2005).

Ultimately, language death could be seen as a form of evolution. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, due in part to economic and cultural trade as well as increasing access to technology, some things are bound to be lost in the transition. Whilst some languages will inevitably be killed off in the process – resulting in the loss of valuable cultural information – the huge array of opportunities that could potentially be accessed by those in possession of an international auxiliary language such as English is too big to ignore.

ZAKA KHALID, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Crystal, D. (2000). Energising Englishes. English Teaching Professional, 1(14),

Khirbawhani. (2005). Impact Of Westernization On Indian Culture. [Weblog]. Retrieved 28 January, 2016.

Paton, G. (2013). Daily Telegraph online Retrieved 28 January, 2016.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic Imperialism . United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Ratcliffe, R. (2013). The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February, 2016.

Rosenthal, M.J. (2014). Public Radio International. Retrieved 28 January, 2016

Shamim, F. (2011). Dreams and Realities: Developing Countries and the English Language. Retrieved 28 January, 2016.

Unesco. (2016). Endangered languages. Retrieved 28 January, 2016.

The Times of India. (2010). Indiaspeak: English is our 2nd language. Retrieved 28 January, 2016.




The death of languages: should we care? THOMAS HOOKHAM discusses the Australian language, Dyirbal

It is said that nothing in life is certain apart from death and taxes. It appears that the former is also possible with our languages. A language dies when no one speaks it anymore (Crystal, 2000, p. 1). Languages are reported to die between one every two weeks (Rymer, 2012) and one every three months (Nuwer, 2014). One language that is currently on the way towards language death is the Native Australian language of Dyirbal.

Schmidt’s study on Dyirbal (1985) showed that the language was nearing extinction. He noted that the language itself was disappearing because the younger speakers were a lot less fluent in Dyirbal than the older speakers (p. 378). For instance, in Dyirbal to describe a big eel you would say ‘qunuii’ (Nettle & Romaine, 2000, p. 54). However, to describe a kangaroo as big you would call it ‘waqala’ (Nettle & Romaine, 2000, p. 54). Schmidt (1985) noted that members of the tribe aged between 18 to 35-year old would use these terms interchangeably to mean ‘big’ (p. 380). Crystal (2000) explains that there are very few new words added to the language. The language that the speakers use becomes much more limited over time (p. 230). Schmidt (1985) also noted that the tribe members that were younger than eighteen could not speak a single sentence of Dyirbal (p. 378).

Schmidt (1985) believed that there were a few reasons why Dyirbal was dying in younger speakers. Firstly, all television and literature in Australia is in English (Schmidt, 1985, pp. 379-380). This meant that Dyirbal children were used to English at a very young age, whilst also creating ‘images and expectations in conflict with traditional Dyirbal culture’ (Schmidt, 1985, p. 379). Another reason is the increased contact with English speakers. The Dyirbal tribe had to use English to trade with European settlers and over time the tribe gradually began to use it amongst themselves (Schmidt, 1985, p. 380). The final reason is compulsory English schooling. The Dyirbal children are taught English in Australian schools and do not have the option to learn Dyirbal (Schmidt, 1985, p. 380). Schmidt (1985) states that compulsory English ‘instils a negative impression of the utility and value of Dyirbal’ (pp. 380-381).

Dyirbal is shown to have all three factors of a dying language – population loss, forced language shift and voluntary language shift. Population loss of the Dyirbal people was shown when their ‘territory was invaded […] and the physical environment was deeply bruised’ (Schmidt, 1985, p. 378). This caused the population of the tribe to plummet. Forced language shift occurs when a dominant group forces a minority group to change to their language. This is shown through the compulsory English schooling that the children receive (Schmidt, 1985, p. 380). In voluntary language shift, a minority group decides themselves to use a dominant language as shown through the Dyirbal tribe gradually using English so they could trade with settlers (Schmidt, 1985, p. 380).

Within the academic circle, most linguists believe that languages deserve to be preserved. For example, Dalby (2003) explained that ‘each language is a different way of looking at, mapping and classifying the world’ (p. 272). Nettle & Romaine (2000) also expressed a similar view: ‘one technology may be substituted for another, this is not true of languages. Each language has its own window on the world’ (p.14). These linguists express the belief that languages have their own intrinsic values as a keystone of their respective cultures.

Outside of academia the view on language death can be quite different. The journalist Simon Jenkins stated that ‘I have always believed that the sooner the world speaks English, the happier and more prosperous it will be’ (The Times, 1995). Jenkins explains that English can be used as a lingua franca between countries to become more economically successful. The linguist Mufwene (2004) claims that ‘[l]inguists concerned with the rights of languages must ask themselves whether these rights prevail over the right of the speakers to adapt competitively to their new socioeconomic ecologies’ (p. 219). He (2004) explains that these communities must adapt to survive, questioning whether linguists only care due to their interest in languages.

In conclusion, although critics like Mufwene make interesting points on the importance of preserving languages, my views align with Dalby and Crystal.  Crystal (2000) states that ‘every language, it would seem, has its Chaucer’ (p. 46). This highlights the cultural loss that humanity may suffer if we focus on establishing ‘socioeconomic ecologies’ (Mufwene, 2004, p.219) over the preservation of minority languages and cultures.

THOMAS HOOKHAM, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK



Crystal, D. (2000). Language Death. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Dalby, A. (2003). Language in danger. Chichester, United Kingdom: Columbia University Press.

Jenkins, S. (1995, February, 25). The Triumph of English. The Times.

McKay, P. (1994, April, 24). English Rules The Waves. The Sunday Times.

Mufwene, S. (2004). Language Birth and Death. Anthropol, 33(1), 201-222.

Rymer, R. (2012, July). Vanishing Voices. National Geographic. 

Nuwer, R. (2014) Languages: Why we must save dying tongues, BBC on-line.

Schmidt, A. (1985). The fate of ergativity in dying Dyirbal, Language, 61(2), 378-396.


AMANI NIAZ asks: ‘Is texting and CMC detrimental to literacy?’

For many years there has been an ongoing debate as to whether computer-mediated communication (CMC) and texting are imposing detrimental effects upon our literacy skills. Some say that it does have an impact on literacy and others believe that it does not and that it is simply just another form of the English language. In some ways it encourages the younger generations to explore and play with language, through the use of, for instance, contractions and acronyms. However some argue that it has been proven to affect the literacy skills of some young people.

“The popularization of CMC spread after the launch of the World Wide Web in 1990”  according to Tagliamonte and Denis (2008, p. 5). Due to the rising popularity of online messaging services and websites such as MSN and Facebook new forms of language became increasingly used. Crystal states that “people found the linguistic novelty to lie chiefly in the slang and jargon of its enthusiastic proponents, as well as in their penchant for playing with language and for breaking conventional linguistic rules of spelling and punctuation” (2004, p. 64).

As this was the new trend more and more people started to use this form of language. It was something new and intriguing. So intriguing in fact, that not just teenagers but also adults started to use it to seem somewhat cool….

According to the Daily Mail (2010), “[a]dults mimicking teen-speak are to blame for spreading sloppy English which is putting the future of the language at risk”. However, has it really put our language at risk? Today my believe is that text-message abbreviations are on the decrease. This could be due to the introduction of smartphones. In the early 2000s pay-as-you-go phones were commonly used. This type of phone had a limit to how much text you could send in a message. If you went over the limit you had to pay extra. Thus abbreviations and contractions were frequently used. Nowadays with smartphones and iphones, there is no limit to the amount of text we can input into a message. Also mobile phones now contain autocorrect, which automatically corrects a words spelling. Thus text language is less frequently used as messages are largely made up of full words and sentences.

However, some have argued that this form of language has been seen to venture beyond children’s technological devices and has become frequently used within their everyday language. Mphahlele and Mashmaite (2005; cited by Verheijen, 2013, p. 587) found that “[s]tudents fail to distinguish contexts in which text language is acceptable”. As texting is used by many on a day to day basis, this has become a linguistic norm for the younger generations. This may lead to it appearing in their schoolwork. Some are extremely concerned that texting is found in writing requiring more formal Standard English and gives the impression that young people are unable to distinguish when they are able to use it in a satisfactory circumstance. A study by Pew Internet & American Life Project found that “[n]early two-thirds of seven hundred students surveyed said their e-communication style sometimes bled into school assignments” (Lewin, 2008, p. 1) and “about half said they sometimes omitted proper punctuation and capitalized in school work” (Lewin, 2008, p. 1). Surely they must have some sort of knowledge to know when it is appropriate to use textisms?

Bernard (2008) found that “[s]ome teachers are not banning mobile phones from the classroom, as they believe it allows for more opportunities”. If the increased use of texting is detrimental to the English Language and is also harming students’ grades, then why are some teachers encouraging the use of mobile phones within the classroom? Evidently this is going to be harmful to students’ education. It will not only cause distractions, but also lead to text language becoming even more frequently used within the school environment.

As regards to the wide spread use of phones, Crystal (2004 p.81), stated that “[t]ext-messaging is often cited as a particular problem. Children of the future will no longer be able to spell, it is said.” This claim could very much be true. Children are becoming lazier now with language use. Technological devices have autocorrect built into them therefore they do not have to spell for themselves.

Overall I feel the technological advances in recent years have had an undesirable effect upon the younger generation’s literacy skills. More people have become extremely reliant on technology due to its popularity. I firmly believe that boundaries have to be put in place for when it is and is not acceptable to use this form of language, particularly for students who use this form within the school environment.

What do you think?

 AMANI NIAZ, English Language student, University of Chester, UK


Bernard, S. (2008). Zero-thumb game: How to tame texting. Retrieved November 17, 2015.

Crystal, D. (2004). The language revolution (1st ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press

Lewin, T. (2008). Informal style of electronic messages is showing up in schoolwork, study finds. The New York Times, April 25. Retrieved November 17, 2015.

Mphahlele, M., & Mashamaite, K. (2005). The impact of Short Message Service (SMS) Language on Language Proficiency of Learners and the SMS Dictionaries: A challenge for educators and lexicographers. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning, 161-8.

Tagliamonte, S. & Denis, D. (2008). Linguistic? LOL! Instant messaging and teen language. American speech 83 (1), 3-34.

Daily Mail (2010). Informal style of electronic messages is showing up in schoolwork, study finds. Retrieved November 17, 2015.

MEGAN ARMSTRONG asks: ‘Texting and CMC: destroying or improving our literacy?’

Since the rise of the internet in the 1990s and the sending of the first text message in 1992, technology has rapidly become essential to our the 21st century lives.  The development of Google in 1998 would also contribute to the changing of the way we live our lives, as the term ‘I’ll Google it’ is used daily by most people I know. In fact by 2007 it was recorded that 3.8 billion Google searches were being made per month in the USA (Baron, 2008, p. 13).

Baron (2008, p. 11) suggests CMC in the 1980s included email, chats or IM, but this term has broadened since social network sites and smartphones were introduced. The popularity of CMC and texting has been stirring up opinions as to whether these ‘amazing’ advances are actually having a negative effect on literacy. John Sutherland declares “texting is penmanship for illiterates” (The Guardian, 2008) but do you agree with this statement? Can texting really affect literacy?

Verheijen (2013, p.584) displays features of language variation of textese, such as the use of single letter/number homophones – ‘c’ = ‘see’ and ‘2’ = ‘to/too’, typographic symbols – ‘@’ = ‘at’ and acronyms such as ‘ttyl’ = ‘talk to you later’. These examples are frequently used in text messages, so many fear it will mix into schoolwork. Conversely, McIntyre (2009, p. 123) suggests that our writing can change depending on circumstances, perhaps arguing that textese features would not be carried over to school work.

Teachers are worrying that children will bring textese into the classroom as suggested by Verheijen (2013, p. 587). A study to support this theory would be the one conducted by Mampa, Mphahlele and Kwena Majhamaite (2005, pp. 161–8; cited by Verheijen 2013, p. 587) who explored the influence of textese in South Africa. They noted increasingly more use of textese in work and believe that students are “victims of SMS language” and blame exposure on the media.

Some newspapers have implied that texting is negatively affecting literacy, as according to Woronoff (2007; cited by Wood, Kemp and Plester, 2014, p.24) “texting influences kids to spell incorrectly”. In 2004 the Daily Telegraph stated that “pupils resort to text language in GCSE exams”. In addition,  in 2003 the BBC highlighted the alleged case of an essay written by a 13-year-old where textese was used repeatedly.  However, Crystal (2008, p. 151) implies that these essays may not have even existed. So how reliable are these sources in determining that our language is being affected by texting? Crystal states that “[e]vidence from examiners […] suggests that the vast majority of students are well aware of the difference, and do not use textisms in their writing” (2008, p. 166). It could be that pupils resorted to text language in the early 2000s as texting only became popular in the mid-1990s. This could play a role as the craze of texting was fairly new and it was likely deemed ‘cool’ to write in textese. However, now in 2015 it would be less likely that children would use textese in their schoolwork, as the craze has died off.

Texting and CMC is not always viewed negatively. Many linguists believe that it is positively influencing language. Varnhagen et al. (2010, p. 719) state that “electronic communication has generated a new language of abbreviations”. For example ASAP and PS are used daily in emails. Crystal (2008) suggest that texting encourages the coining of interesting neologisms such as ‘unfriend’ and ‘tweet’ which would not exist without social network sites. Crystal (2008, p. 41) also suggests that we already use initialisms, such as ‘BBC’ which is fully integrated into the English lexicon. So why are initialisms such as OMG and TBH seen as such a negative? Textese is slowly becoming more accepted as words such as ‘OMG’, ‘chillax’ and ‘unfriend’ have been added to the dictionary.

More recent views on this debate would suggest that texting is an addition to language. For instance, Tagliamonte and Denis claim “CMC is not destroying literacy skills or ruining this generation, but [is] an expansive new linguistic renaissance” (2008, p. 27). Baron (2008, p. 161) states that “[d]istinguishing between language change and language decline is a very tricky business”, so maybe prescriptivists cannot accept that language is evolving, and choose to believe that CMC is dumbing down literacy. Aitchison’s (1997) ‘crumbing castle’ metaphor would apply as the idea that language should be ‘preserved’ would suggest that teachers believe school work should stay standardised. My personal opinion is that technology does encourage creativity but would not have an effect on my literacy. All things considered, this debate is a matter of opinion. Some will believe that texting has a negative effect, and some will support the advancements in technology and encourage new additions to language.

MEGAN ARMSTRONG, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Aitchison, J. (1997). The language web: The power and problem of words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baron, N. S. (2008). Always on: Language in an online and mobile world. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

BBC. (2003). Is txt ruining the English Language. BBC News [online], 6th March 2003 . Retrieved November, 3, 2015.

Crystal, D. (2008). Txting: The Gr8 Db8. New York: Oxford University Press.

Henry, J. (2004). Pupils resort to text language in GCSE exams. The Telegraph [online]. Retrieved November, 2, 2015.

McIntyre, D. (2009) History of English. Oxon: Routledge.

Mphahlele, Mampa L., and Kwena Mashamaite. The impact of Short Message Service (SMS) language on language proficiency of learners and the SMS dictionaries: A challenge for educators and lexicographers. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning (2005), 161–8.

Tagliamonte, S. & Denis, D. (2008) Linguistic Ruin? LOL! Instant Messaging and Teen Language. American Speech (83) 1, pp. 3-34.

Varnhagen, C.K., McFall, P., Pugh, N., Routledge, L., Sumida-MacDonald, H., & Kwong,. T.E. (2010) LOL: New language and Spelling in Instant Messaging. Reading and Writing 23, pp. 719–733.

Verheijen, L. (2013) The Effects of Text Messaging and Instant Messaging on Literacy. English Studies, 94 (5), pp582-602.

Wood, C., Kemp, N., & Plester, B. (2014). Texting and literacy – The evidence. London, UK: Routledge.

Woronoff, P. (2007). Cell phone texting can endanger spelling. Retrieved November, 1, 2015.

Global English: ‘Vampire or provider’? asks OLIVIA STANYER

Crystal (2000: 19) estimates that one language dies every two weeks, but is this because of the spread of English? Yes, English is becoming a global language and up to a billion people in the world speak some form of it (depending how you define ‘English speaker’) but globalisation and the subsequent impact on language is seen as something that is unavoidable.   Ceramella (2012: 12) states that “[…] though all languages naturally continue to change, English, without taking into account the historic and economic reasons involved, is just seen as a ‘vampire language’, both for the way it feeds on other tongues and contaminates them in turn”. However, he feels that people should just accept that English is becoming the future language of the world.

According to Raine (2012), “[t]he fact that English now belongs to ‘everyone or to no one’ (Wardhaugh 1987) would seem to imply that English will maintain its position as the global dominant language throughout the 21st century and beyond”, thus, showing other languages are potentially threatened by English and because those who have power (e.g. politicians and the educated) are using English, individuals feel that they are having to use English to fit in.

When the question arises of why English has been made an official language, Crystal (2003: 110) claims that “one of the most important reasons is always education”, allowing individuals to further their career aspects. For example, an Egyptian trainee secretary can increase their pay by nearly ten times when they have finished learning English (Crystal 2010: 370).

On the other side of the debate, it is believed that English is not a killer but an influence on other languages. For example, Bryson (2009: 2) shows how English is influencing other languages and assisting in their development: “[…] French motorists going away for a weekend break pause for ‘les refuelling stops’, Poles watch ‘telewizja’ […] and the Japanese go on a ‘pikunikku’ ”. In addition, for the purpose of this debate, I interviewed my Welsh housemate and asked her views on this topic. She stated that she would not give up her mother tongue for the use of English as she is passionate about her own language and feels so strongly about it. She only uses English for the means of communicating with her friends she has in England, to watch TV and listen to music.

I personally feel that English is not killing other languages, it just so happens that it has become “the most global of languages, [and] the lingua franca of business, science, education, politics and pop music” (Bryson 2009: 2). It allows people to further their careers without forcing countries to stop using their mother tongue. However, I have only ever learnt English and have never needed nor been forced to learn another language fluently in order to communicate, so I suppose that this is one of those debates where most people sit on the fence.

If people really wanted to save their own languages and not let English become this ‘killer’ language it is portrayed to be, then surely they should do something about it? Alternatively, people choose to shift the blame onto the English language and use words such as ‘killer’ and ‘vampire language’, which I feel are a little too strong. We do not know in hundreds of years’ time what the language of the future will be, the possibilities are endless! As Crystal states, English is just “a language which has repeatedly found itself at the right place at the right time” (2003: 110). Perhaps instead of seeing the worst of this situation, we should surely be encouraging it?

OLIVIA STANYER, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Bryson, B. (2009). Mother Tongue. United Kingdom: Penguin Books.

Ceramella, N. (2012) Is English a Killer Language or an International Auxiliary? Its Use and Function in a  Globalised World. International Journal of Language, Translation and Intercultural Communication. [online], 1 (1) [Accessed 19th January 2015] pp. 9-23. 

Crystal, D. (2000) Language Death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2003) English as a Global Language. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (2010) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. 3rd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.    

Raine, P. (2012) ‘Why is English the Dominant World Language?’ [Accessed 20 January 2015]. 

Wardhaugh, R. (1987) Languages in Competition: Dominance, Diversity and Decline.  Oxford: Blackwell.