In the essay, ‘Children can’t speak or write properly anymore’ by James Milroy, he argues that there have been complaints about language decline connected to moral discipline. He states that these complaints have been associated with a certain part of the society and one form is blaming it on the children. Milroy argues that this is not true as evidence suggests that the level of literacy is not different in the past as it is now. He further states that in past generations, the level of literacy has not undergone any major changes and there is no such thing as the golden age. While I agree with his viewpoint, I feel that there is a lot that can be blamed on the young generation especially with regards to the role of technology on language. The question is, do you blame them or the technology itself?
In this digital age whereby everything is computerized, this has had a great impact on both the written and spoken word. Digital media does not only impact the young general, but it does so at a greater capacity. The young start learning about computers at a tender age, it is also their main form of communication and learning. For instance computers are used place of traditional classrooms, for dating, computer games, research, and communication with one another is done across a vast social media platform. The older generation also does have access to digital media, but all these technology came at a later age in their lives and therefore, they are not prone to learning it fast enough. I, for one do not know how to send a tweet. I understand that one has to type a maximum of 140 characters. I am not sure if I am supposed to ‘measure’ and ‘weigh’ my thought before I put it down lest I surpass the maximum number of characters allowed.
The youth on the other hand are constantly tweeting and texting and chatting and tindering and blogging… Do not get me wrong, I am not against all these media technological platform, it is just that the language used in each of them is totally different from the traditional language. Something like the ‘text language’ which aims at shortening almost every English word (for the purposes of shortening conveyance time), has developed a completely different language. Take the word ‘LOL’ which is short for ‘laugh out loud’, it is used during texting in a manner that it can take on several different meanings. Susan might ask, “Lol, is Chris short for Christopher?” and Chris may reply, “Lol, No, I go by Chris instead of Andrew.” In both cases the characters may or may not have been laughing out loud, might have been easing tension or creating a sense of equality between them. I know that one may argue that text language is text language and nobody speaks or writes like that in real life. But texting is in real life and not in a rehearsal so how long before there is a gray area between the 2?
Milroy also argues that there hasn’t been a decline in language in recent years otherwise there wouldn’t be books being written and produced. I disagree with this statement for he has not given us an analogy nor evidence of the number of literal books that have been written in recent times compared to earlier years. As time has been progressing of course there have been major developments in different areas of the world. This includes educational development, but this does not necessarily mean that the rate at which new writers are emerging directly correlates with the level of education worldwide. There might be a few or more writers now than there were several years ago, of course with respect to population size and the literacy depth. If we were to measure the decline of language by the number of good books being written, then we might as well ask why we do not have writers like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and George Orwell in today’s society.
Finally, Milroy argues that there really has not been a decline in language but society needs to accept the different varieties of a particular language. This might be true as people really do speak different kinds of English, these may differ by accents, dialects or geographical position. We still need to adhere to some kind of standard language with definitive rules, because if not then everyone is bound to claim that their version is the correct one. I mean there has to be some common ground where the rules applies to everybody regardless of their level of education or social status. However, if there has to be an emergence of new languages such as text language, there should be some formal allowance for it in the linguistic system.