Language Matters June/July 2009: English Words

Dear Language Friend,

One Millionth Word Added To The English Language

In this month of June 2009, we celebrate the addition of the one millionth word to the English Language. The term Web 2.0 was apparently added in the early hours of Wednesday June 10th and inspired a great deal of curiosity as well as debate concerning the state of the English Language and its rapid expansion in recent years. In this issue of our newsletter we will explore the significance of this one millionth word and the questions it engenders.

Contributed by Kathleen Dodd-Moher. Thanks for reading.

What constitutes a word anyway?

The addition of Web 2.0 to the English Language makes us stop and think. How do we define the term word? Do we accept slang words and computer jargon? How widely used does a term need to be before being officially accepted as a word? And do we need to become stricter about accepting words considering how rapidly English is developing, changing and expanding? These are but a few of the questions inspired by this recent news story.

Why such a rapid development of the language recently?

One of the most relevant issues this news story brings up is the current speed at which the English Language is growing. There are several takes on the topic, but general consensus confirms several influences.

First, modern technological development is very much to blame. The invention of the internet, cellular devices, new hard and soft wares have evidently contributed to the creation of new words: words suitable to describe as well as communicate via these new tools. As a result of these new technologies, the term globalization came into use, which brings us to our next point. English is now regarded as a global language, and this is largely due to new media and means of communication. Thus, the mixing of cultures and the growing usage of the English language caused by new technological developments are mostly responsible for the expansion of the language.

Another factor, related to the media, is recent events. Many words are created in response to things happening in the news at the time. For example, in CNN’s article on the subject, Paul J.J. Payack is quoted as mentioning words such as obamamania or recessionista that have been invented and become widely used as a result of recurring news coverage on the presidential election as well as the economic crash in the United States. Consequently, the extension of the English language is explainable, and yet an increasingly fascinating phenomenon.

What is it about English?

And with the addition of Web 2.0, the English language has double the reason to rejoice. Not only is it celebrating its one millionth word, it is the very first language to do so. It has more words than any other. Which begs the question, why? What is it about English? Is there something inherent in the language itself that lends itself to reinvention, expansion or change? Or can we simply attribute this phenomenon to increasing contact between linguistic groups?

Stay tuned for more language insight in our next newsletter…

At LingoStar

These are questions we are continually asking ourselves at Lingo-Star and we would like to take the opportunity to underline our consequent awareness of the English language’s rapidly increasing vocabulary. Considering the complexity of English, as well as other languages, we do our very best to select translators with the most relevant experience and knowledge of the ever-changing terminology in particular fields such as technology, environment, and health research. At LingoStar we guarantee high quality by significantly decreasing the risk of mistranslation.