The Influence of Technology on the English Language

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The Influence of Technology on the English Language

Did you know that, prior to the invention of the telephone, the term “hello” was used to draw attention to something as opposed to greeting someone?

Nowadays almost every English speaker answers the telephone by saying “Hello.”

However, before the telephone was invented by Scottish scientist Alexander Graham Bell, saying hello was used to express surprise or to bring notice to something.

People would simply say “Good morning, good day, or goodnight” when meeting someone.

Telephone companies gave birth to the greeting “hello” by publishing books on correct language for phone usage.

I discovered this fun fact (along with many others!) last week, when I received an email from Shane Whelan who works for the ULearn English language school.

Shane created a timeline detailing the influence of technology on the English language to celebrate World English Language Day which is today!

I’ll leave you now with the content of his email which is very thorough and informative. Scroll down to see the interactive timeline!

How Technology has shaped the English Language

World English language day has been celebrated on the 23rd of April each year since 2010, in conjunction with the birthday anniversary of William Shakespeare. The history of the language can be dated as far back as the 5th Century AD when three Germanic tribes, Angles, Saxons and Jutes came to England and displaced the Celtic language that was spoken. The invasion of the Vikings, as well as the influence of Latin, caused the language to evolve further, and contributed a substantial amount of the vocabulary used today. This continued evolution has led to English being the second most used language in the world.

While the impact of invasions and the effect of other languages have had a significant influence on the language, it is without question that advancements in technology have played a vital role in the development of the language. The invention of the printing press led to greater availability of books, and allowed the public to experience newspapers and the timeless works of Daniel Defoe and William Shakespeare. Radio contributed to the spread of the language during wartimes, while it could be strongly argued that the invention of television was a major factor in the increased use of English as a second language in the 1950s.

In this interactive timeline we have sought to celebrate the development of the language through the influence of technology. There are some who argue that the more recent influence of social media and the internet has led to a “dumbing down” of the language, while others believe that they have helped to spread the language further across the globe. While there will always be contrasting opinion on the negatives and positives regarding the influence of technology, without it, English would not be as widely used and spoken as it is today.

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Chiara Grandola

Hey there! I'm Chiara, also known as Claire on the language learning community. I'm deeply in love with any form of art, different cultures and... guess what?! Yes, languages!