The New York TImes Magazine column “On Language” comes to a close after 32 years.
Says Ben Zimmer, the last columnist for the feature started by the curmudgeonly William Safire:
What does the future hold for our language? The great British language scholar David Crystal once warned me, “Never predict the future with language.” But it’s in our human nature to at least try. Lately I’ve been thinking about the language world that my 4-year-old son, Blake, will grow up into. Will English wax or wane in its global influence during his lifetime? Will the country’s demographic shifts demand a greater acceptance of multilingualism, and will there be a freer commingling of different speech varieties through what sociolinguists call “code-switching” and “code-mixing”? It may be an affront to those who uphold the sanctity of English as the national language, but heterogeneity looks as if it will increasingly be the name of the game.
One thing is clear, as I watch Blake make a Dr. Seuss book come alive on the family iPad with a casual swipe of the finger: Language will become more technologically mediated. The ever-expanding power and flexibility of our personal gadgets, combined with the computing prowess of servers we connect to in “the cloud,” makes it a dead certainty that tech will rule the language of even the most reluctant neo-Luddite.
Sad to know we’ll have to navigate elsewhere for our weekly dose of the cultured lexicon.