thoughtful emoticon

I have mentioned a few times previously, that the one greatest barrier to forming an international culture in our networked global village age is the absence of a truly common language.

For a time I thought that eventually we’d be getting there one way or another. That, however, was about five years ago, when the net wasn’t quite as democratically populated with illiterates as it is now.

Now, with the introduction of padonski dialect of Russian1 which is quickly becoming a full-fledged daily dialect in its own right in record time, I’m not so sure. Turns out linguists never thought it could happen all along.

Linguists studying modern “Network English” find that it has several regional subvarieties, which are diverging rather than converging.

(found in a a treatise on potential mutations of American English)

Now that’s interesting. Even though the words “network english” do not appear to pass the google test it’s still likely to be true to an extent — for example, due to having learned most of my English through extensive reading without ever distinguishing between English and American texts, I find that I use British spellings for some words and American for others, and have no idea which are which.2 Spellcheckers tuned for either British or American spellings constantly throw me off — especially considering that I often don’t pay attention to which particular kind of English a specific spellchecker actually thinks I should be using. What about people who don’t use spellcheckers then, which is, obviously, the majority?

And yet, I can’t really put my finger on the concept exactly. “Network” in “Network English” does not have true regions in the geographical sense of that word. I very rarely use English to speak to other Russians online. Even if I can’t type Cyrillic, they usually insist on horrible chaotic transliterations. Network English might have regions defined by community boundaries, but does it really make sense to study languages of, say, Digg, Fark, Slashdot, 4chan/2ch.* and BoingBoing as distinct regional varieties? Oh, sure, they’ll be different in idiomatic content, sometimes extremely. Nevertheless, can they develop long-term spelling differences, especially considering that they don’t really have any phonetic content, only existing as pure written text, never actually spoken aloud, except maybe by a speech synth?

Most importantly, to effectively combat the stifling advances of governments into cyberspace, network languages have to converge somehow, and persistently cross the boundaries of nation-state.

And yet, not even people don’t want to adapt a single Lingua Franca and stick to it, which is understandable, since that language belongs to one of the most annoying states on Earth, but they’re also splitting what they have, and that’s a fact. How far can they actually split them?

Most importantly, is there a point in communicating at all? Nobody cares anyway. :)

Looks like I have rediscovered an old personal horror, add that to the list of ultimate horrors right after eternity…


The Parking Lot Is Full webcomic.

  1. “падонский”, also sometimes referred to as “Albanian” (албанский) — no relation whatsoever to the real Albanian, obviously. ↩︎

  2. In fact, since I never listened to quite as large a corpus of spoken English, and what I did listen to is either British or American SF, I have no idea whatsoever how to pronounce most of the words I use daily. ↩︎