15 December 2012

Dialects of Modernity


I'm going to be reblogging the posts from my blog tour earlier this past October, just in case anyone missed them in their original locations. They discuss writing generally, but are all tied back into Rmnce, my most recent release which tells a story of new love through the text messages and letters between characters.

The third post of the Rmnce blog tour was hosted by the delightful Brooke Johnson. Brooke wrote the steampunk novel The Clockwork Giant.

I have been on both sides of the prescriptionist/descriptionist divide over the years. On the one hand, its undeniably maddening to see things that were patently wrong when you learned the language embraced as the new normal. That being said, in my experience changes to the language tend to be for the better, at least insofar as better is defined as more usable, convenient, and relevant.

The extreme of this, of course, lies in full-fledged dialects. Perhaps 15 years ago America saw a brief push to have Ebonics declared a legal dialect, with the potential for school curriculum to be altered commensurately to both teach it and teach in it. This movement was, as one might imagine, roundly defeated, but it brought up the issue of whether dialects can be considered valid evolutions of the language. Certainly Ebonics has a number of expressions which serve purposes traditional English needs served; this in itself gives validity to the existence and perpetuation of it, no matter what opinion one may have of its general appeal.

By the same token, text speak, the other principle American dialect of our time, also adds to the English language, albeit in a very different way. By taking words and sentences and hyper-simplifying them, condensing them into an utterly optimized form, it sacrifices the structural beauty, and a degree of the expressiveness, in favor of efficiency. The irony, of course, is that the very people for whom efficiency is a nearly overriding concern are those who dismiss text speak as the domain of children and imbeciles.

In evaluating a dialect’s usefulness and hence broad value, one must ask oneself if it adds to the language as it stands, and in most cases dialects which do not simply die out. Any which has stood the test of time must be looked at closely in terms of applicability. Rmnce demonstrates that art and meaning can be carried by this strange new configuration; beyond that threshold nothing more ought be required.