A Man with a Flashlight

Is language shrinking?
April 6, 2007, 9:12 am
Filed under: Language

From sciencedaily.com. Linguists asked young people and old people, in Chicago and Mexico City, to list words for emotions:

The younger participants, regardless of language, tended to use the same sets of words with limited diversity in their responses. The older participants had fewer identical words but far more diversity.

“We expect a more diverse vocabulary in the older participants. They have experienced more living and have broader vocabularies,” says the Penn State researcher. “This suggests that older adults have more diverse emotions.”

Is it not equally possible that the smaller vocabulary shown by younger participants reflects a general shrinking of English and Spanish vocabulary over time?

At one time English had little standardized spelling, but as printed matter became widespread standard spellings dominated. It is worth asking whether a similar effect, fueled by ever-more-standard English on television and the internet, could begin replacing rarely used words with more mainstream counterparts. Unlike harmonization of spelling, this change would curtail expression.

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