Global English online
Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing in to a Global English phenomenon .
When America emerged from the ashes of a bruising war with Britain in 1814, the nation was far from united. Noah Webster thought that a common language would bring people together and help create a new identity that would make the country truly independent of the British.
Webster’s dictionary, now in its 11th edition, adopted the Americanised spellings familiar today – er instead of re in theatre, dropping the u from colour, and losing the double l from words such as traveller. It also documented new words that were uniquely American such as skunk, opossum, hickory, squash and chowder.
An American Dictionary of the English Language took 18 years to complete and Webster learned 26 other languages in order to research the etymology of its 70,000 entries.
But the Internet is creating a similar language evolution, but at a much faster pace.
There are now thought to be some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. And with half the population of China now on line, many of them are written in Chinese.
Still, some linguists predict that within 10 years English will dominate the Internet – but in forms very different to what we accept and recognise as English today.
That’s because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the Internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don’t have to worry about their accent.