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A whole new dialect—maybe a new language—is emerging from Web English.
Its subtext is still “This is who I am,” but it’s an identity far less parochial than the language has ever expressed before.
Chaucer’s English, 600 years ago, became the ancestor of our English only because London was the political and economic hub of medieval England.
Vigorous literatures in regional dialects are now lost to all but scholars, because they left no descendants.
Those who might have become Northumbrian Shakespeares moved to London and adopted the dialect of the rich and powerful.
The British Diaspora sent Chaucer’s descendants all over the planet, in colonies that preserved or mutated the home dialects.
As a writer and editor, I know that nothing stresses writers and editors more than confronting issues around “bad English,” “improper usage,” and sloppy punctuation.
Such confrontations usually happen in private when the editor and writer lock in deadly embrace over a stray semicolon or whether it’s all right to write “alright.” But the Internet has brought these quarrels out into public scrutiny.If you’re a Brazilian who doesn’t understand “setup” and “shopping cart,” you feel excluded—and in your own country, on a site ostensibly in your own language.At best, you associate them with modernity and glamour, though they’re otherwise meaningless.The other day I ran across a piece I'd written back in 2001.In some ways it seems dated, as in capitalizing "web" words. Here it is: How the Web is Changing English by Crawford Kilian (2001) As a novelist, I know that you show the truth about your characters by putting them under stress that threatens their identity.Most of the rest are people for whom English is an additional language. Whatever we may choose to say in it, we have a subtext: , “An Englishman has only to open his mouth to make some other Englishman despise him.” Hatred or respect may spring from the dialect of the aristocratic or the plebeian, from the urbane or the rustic.