Lecture Language and Digital Media

Image Jannis Androutsopoulos UHH,RRZMCC,Mentz


Goethe-Institut New York

Scenarios and Evidence of Linguistic Change

Is the Internet changing language? Media reports often consider the Internet either the birthplace of a ‘new language’ or the reason linguistic standards are on the decline. However, the relevant literature is full of discrepancies between visionary scenarios and scarce evidence. Scholars, in Germany and elsewhere, have argued that the consequences of the Internet for language in the 21th century might be comparable to those of the printing press in the early modern era; yet zooming in to online data suggests that hardly any change has occurred in grammatical structure. By-passing this apparent contradiction, Jannis Androutsopoulos, Professor in German and Media Linguistics at the University of Hamburg,   will offer an account on digital media as site of linguistic change. He will review the main types of linguistic innovation in online usage (e.g. mingling of spoken and written style features, abbreviations, emoticons and emojis, new vocabulary) and present evidence for their effect on spoken and written usage outside the Internet. He will then consider how the Internet is changing the scale of social engagement with written language. Simply put: more people write, people write more, and unregimented writing goes public. As a result, written language styles diversify, ‘old’ and ‘new’ vernacular features find their way into public writing, and young people learn how to tailor their digital writing style to the communicative situation. Investigating language change on the Internet invites us to reconsider what we mean by the very notions of ‘language’ and ‘change’, and to swap dystopian views of media as a site of language decay for a perspective that emphasizes the diversity of writing in the digital age.

Jannis Androutsopoulos is Professor in German and Media Linguistics at the University of Hamburg, Germany. Educated in Athens, Greece and Heidelberg, Germany, Jannis has also held academic positions at the Institute for German Language, Leibniz University of Hanover and King’s College London as well as invited fellowships at the Universities of Melbourne, Freiburg, Germany and Cape Town. Grounded in sociolinguistics, Jannis’s research explores relationships between language, media and society with particular emphasis on issues of linguistic style, multilingualism, linguistic change, and public discourses on language. Jannis has written or edited more than ten books and 100 academic articles, his most recent publications including Mediatization and sociolinguistic change (editor, 2014) and Digital language practices in superdiversity (co-editor, 2014).