Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

Technology affecting language

Languages are living entities. They change and adapt according to the times. Words that are not being used regularly fade away and eventually disappear. Sometimes entire languages disappear due to population migration, political and geographical factors and war, where some populations in the history of the world were entirely dizimated.

When people migrated to foreign lands or when one culture invaded another, new words were introduced and merged into the existing language.  Brazil is a great example of a country that was colonized by the Portuguese, which adapted native Brazilian and African words into their language. Therefore, just like American English and British English have their differences, so does the Portuguese spoken in Portugal and the Portuguese spoken in Brazil.

With industrialization and mechanization, technology created new equipment and machinery that had to acquire new names. The invention of the car, autobus, train, transistor radio, television and cinema were all new words in the last 150 years.  New words were also created to explain the advances in medicine.

But nothing compares to the speed that language has changed since the internet started playing a huge role in our lives in the last 25 years. Some already in use words like “downloading” , “thread”, “troll” ,”word processing”, “social media” took new meanings. Several new words have been introduced, from “internet”  and “email” to the most recent “googling”, “twittering” or “tweet”, “iPhone”, “blog”, “GPS”, “smartphone”…the list goes on and on.

The result of this fast change is that we can expect an influx of new words to surge in the next few years. It is exciting to predict what will be the next fad word. Maybe in the next couple of years we will be saying “get your iPad” as frequently as the factory workers last century said “get your pad” . If someone from 1985 stepped on a time machine and was thrown in the year 2010, he or she would not understand 20% of what people are saying nowadays!

So yes, even though we did not get the future we all wanted a la Jetsons (flying cars to beat traffic jams and robot maids to clean our house), at least in the language level we are in the future.

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March 17, 2010 - Posted by | Society, Technology

8 Comments »

  1. Any companies dream in marketing is to become a verb form.

    We Fedex something. It implies that it will be there overnight and ontime.

    We Xerox something.

    We get a Kleenex. Not a tissue, a Kleenex. A brand

    We put a Band Aid on a cut.

    And so on.

    It’s not just technology driving the new wave of words. It’s marketing, also, even if it is much less prevalent. Companies slave themselves for this golden nugget. Their COMPANY name has become a verb form.

    As far as languages themselves, history has shown that the one thing that is sure to kill a country, is the destruction of their language. It is absolutely vital to the continuation of that country and it’s very identity, to protect and nurture their language. If the nazis would have been successful, as they tried, to eradicate the polish language (It was forbidden to speak polish during that regime), the conquering of Poland would have been complete with the erasure of their language. And Poland would not exist today if they had been successful. It would have been a land grab after WWII and the polish, as a people, would have been but a memory, like the Pharoans.

    It is in this way, and ONLY in this way, that I like the french 🙂 They are absolutely fierce in the protection of their language. But that’s it. I got nuthin’ else for them. Don’t get me started on the french!!! lol

    Comment by steve | March 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great stuff. I am always fascinated with the ways one language will influence another language.

    And, as to Steve’s comment, I think the French are involved in a lost cause. Every language changes and is influenced by other languages. The only languages that don’t change are the dead ones (Latin, classical Greek, etc).

    Some people get upset about the undue influence of English technical terms, but they should realize that English itself is an incredible hodgepodge of languages. Even Portuguese has Latin, Greek, Celtic, Arabic and (in Brazil) African and indigenous influences.

    Comment by Andrew Comings | March 17, 2010 | Reply

  3. Hi

    Off this topic maybe, but one thing that came around my mind is on how the word America will be understated as U.S. Citizen.
    I think with the Brazilian emergence, it tends to change. I mean, I consider myself and American, because I’m from Brazil, I’m from Americas, so I’m American.
    Another thing, after some time living in New Zealand I could understand how US and Brazil are alike. Even if you look at the language accents, you’ll note that Brazilian Portuguese is more open phonetics than Portugal, same way U.S English is from the British. I have an issue of The Economist magazine (Brazil takes off) and something they mention is on how U.S. and Brazil seems much more like each other as people though to be. As Brazil arises, the relationship with U.S will increase and I predict a huge united and true America (all the Americas).
    Cheers

    Comment by Mauricio | March 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Mauricio,

      I have just finished writing a term paper for my MBA on Brazil and when looking at the academic writings and studies that have been carried out, USA came up an the country with the most contrast to Brazil. Individualist (USA) vs. collectivist (Brazil), Brazilian Hierarchy, Flexibility, family orientated, warmth, how genuine they are, etc.

      I can not comment on Brazil from personal experience as I have none, but I am in a good position to speak on Americans, as I know lots of them, and there is a lot about America I dislike. Brazil has the potential to be THE best country in the world in time. It’s just a little disorganised at present.
      Pat.

      Comment by Pat | March 23, 2010 | Reply

      • Hi Pat,
        If you feel like you could share your paper sometime let us know. About contrasts, I agree that they are obvious in some aspects, mainly due to economical differences. However, I can see (from my feeling) some common views in Brazil vs America. Remember both countries had massive immigration, etc.

        About your example, individualism vs collectivism. Well I understand that collectivism exists on Brazil only until people get on a better social situation. Once they get money, they will be individualist too. Flexibility, well Brazil is one of the more bureaucratic countries in the world.

        I also think Brazil has the potential, but we suffered from recent dictatorships and our democracy is reasonable new. I can see Brazil in a good position maybe in 20 years.

        Comment by Mauricio | March 23, 2010

  4. Interesting you say that Pat, because I think the ideal society is one where we have progress, quality of life, technological and medical advances as well human values. When I visit Brazil, I do like the fact people show genuine interest in you, and I do not see niceness for the sake of a tip only.On the other hand, I feel impatient when I see the slowness of supermarket cashiers, the rudeness in traffic and litter on the ground.

    Maybe New Zealand is a compromise? What do you think Mauricio?

    Comment by Brasilmagic | March 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Brasilmagic, in my opinion the main reason of the Brazilian resultant society is the education gap between 85 and now. The main guilty are the military dictators. They were good to contain the communism, but they should come back to democracy earlier. One example on how consequences still acting: how can we still have one single monopolist TV channel for 40 years now, who dictates what people think? Internet may change it all.

      About New Zealand, I can’t tell much about, it’s such a different and laid back country, it’s an amazing country.

      Comment by Mauricio | March 23, 2010 | Reply

  5. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
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    Comment by gurjendersihe2012 | December 26, 2013 | Reply


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