Generational language gap ‘seismic’

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Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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The English language is evolving at a faster rate now than at any other time in history because of social media and instant messaging, a language expert has said.

Professor John Sutherland from University College London is the UK’s leading English expert, and has led a study into common social media and “text speak” terms that found most parents were baffled by the language used by their children.

According to the study, which was commissioned by technology giant Samsung to mark the launch of the Galaxy S6, there was now a “seismic generational gap” between the older and younger generations when it came to how modern informal language was used.

Modern terms such as “fleek” and “bae” were found to be the most commonly confused by parents, with just 10% of the 2,000 surveyed being able to identify the true meaning of “bae” – a term of affection.

86% of parents who took part in the survey said they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

“Fleek” – which means looking good – came top of the list of terms parents did not understand, with 43% selecting it as a term they did not know.

This was ahead of FOMO (fear of missing out) and bae, both of which were selected by 40% of parents.

Popular social media acronyms ICYMI (in case you missed it), TBT (throwback Thursday) and NSFW (not safe for work) also made the list of terms parents failed to understand.

Prof Sutherland said: “The limitation of characters on old handsets were a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8.

“However, technological evolution has meant that these words are now effectively extinct from the text speak language and are seen as ‘antique text speak’.

He added that the rise of emojis could be the next phase in language and communication, and that the increasing use of icons had an historical link.

“The use of audio and visual messaging has become more commonplace with the soaring popularity of social media and instant messaging apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat,” he said.

“In fact we are moving to a more pictographic form of communication with the increasing popularity of emoticon.

“This harks back to a caveman form of communication where a single picture can convey a full range of messages and emotions.

“In the future, less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language.”

Both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile platforms now have emoji keyboards built into their software as standard.

Published: Friday 1st May 2015 by The News Editor

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