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Dynamic English

Dynamic English

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Published by: sierra_ts on Oct 28, 2008
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11/25/2012

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U.S. DEPARTMENT 0F STATE / BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION PROGRAMS
 
The Bureau of International Information Programs of the U.S. Department of State publishes ve electronic journals under the
eJournal USA
logo—
Economic Perspectives, Global Issues, Issues of Democracy, ForeignPolicy Agenda,
and
Society & Values 
—that examine majorissues facing the United States and the internationalcommunity, as well as U.S. society, values, thought, andinstitutions.One new journal is published monthly in English and isfollowed by versions in French, Portuguese, Russian, andSpanish. Selected editions also appear in Arabic, Chinese,and Persian. Each journal is catalogued by volume andnumber.The opinions expressed in the journals do not necessarily reect the views or policies of the U.S. government. TheU.S. Department of State assumes no responsibility forthe content and continued accessibility of Internet sitesto which the journals link; such responsibility residessolely with the publishers of those sites. Journal articles,photographs, and illustrations may be reproduced andtranslated outside the United States unless they carry explicit copyright restrictions, in which case permissionmust be sought from the copyright holders noted in the journal.The Bureau of International Information Programsmaintains current and back issues in several electronicformats, as well as a list of upcoming journals, at
 http://usinfo.state.gov/pub/ejournalusa.html 
. Comments are welcome at your local U.S. Embassy or at the editorialofces:Editor,
eJournal USA
IIP/PUBJU.S. Department of State301 4th Street, SW  Washington, DC 20547United States of AmericaE-mail: eJournalUSA@state.gov
Society & Values: 
Volume 12, Number 8
 J 
OURNAL
USA
Society & Values 
International Information Programs:
Coordinator Jeremy F. CurtinExecutive Editor Jonathan A. MargolisCreative Director George Clack Editor-in-Chief Richard W. Huckaby Managing Editor Robin L. YeagerProduction Manager Christian Larson Assistant Production Manager Sylvia Scott Web Producer Janine Perry  Assistant Editor Chandley McDonaldCopy Editor Rosalie TargonskiPhoto Editor Ann Monroe JacobsReference Specialist Martin J. ManningCopyright Specialist Connie FaunceCover Designer Bryan Kestel
The Editors acknowledge the generous contribution of images and videos,some of which represent commercial products. Our grateful use of the images in no way constitutes an endorsement of the products by the U.S.Department of State.The title of this issue,“Dynamic English,” is meant to describe our subject matter: the changing state of modern American English. The journal is not connected to any other program, publication, or product associated with the words “dynamic English.” 
 
I
n his article “Change Is Gonna Do Ya Good,” IlanStavans points out that the challenge for dictionariesand those who produce them is the fact that as soonas a list is made of every possible word, and each word’smeanings, that list, and those meanings, are already beginning to be out of date. A similar challenge existsin describing the forces that influence a language inillustrating the types of changes, and in describing theprocess. We have titled this journal “Dynamic English”because it explores the way the world’s most commonly used language is evolving in the 21stcentury under thepressures of technology, globalization, and immigration.Most people encounter at least one new English wordor usage each day, especially those who watch popularmedia or spend time reading blogs and other Web sites. Americans who spend time living in other countries areespecially aware of changes in our language. Either wemeet Americans abroad or return to the United Statesafter an assignment in another country, to be surprisedby new words and phrases and by how widespread they seem to be despite the fact that we’ve just encounteredthem. By the time I heard “24/7” for the first time, it wasalready in nearly universal use to indicate issues, services,or programs that are in effect 24 hours a day, seven daysa week. And I won’t soon forget the shock of briefing acollege student who, upon learning something surprising,exclaimed, “Shut-up!” The fact that her advisors andfellow students found nothing unusual in this exchange was a clue that this might be a new use for the term I’dalways been taught was rude. Apparently it had developeda meaning along the lines of “No way!” or “You’rekidding!” All living languages evolve, and English seems tochange more readily than some others. In
Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language 
, linguist SethLerer reviews changes in English through the ages, from
Beowulf  
through Chaucer, to Webster’s efforts to createnew spellings and usages in American English from theEnglish forms, to current changes in the language. Hecredits Shakespeare alone with coining nearly 6,000 new words. Nor is this phenomenon new for the Americanversion of the language. The Public Broadcasting System(PBS) television network, which produced a series of programs entitled
Do You Speak American
?, creditsThomas Jefferson as the U.S. president who added themost new words (so far). The program’s Web site explainsthe relationship between language and culture this way:Language sows its own seeds of change; social contextgives it the fertile ground to grow and spread.But are these changes good? The creators of the PBSseries asked, “Are we less literate than we used to be? Ise-mail ruining the language?” In his 2001 collection of essays,
The Way We Talk Now 
, Geoffrey Nunberg pointsout that “American English has always been pretty openabout borrowing words from other languages.” His viewis that mixing elements from different cultures, whetherit’s language or food, can produce new, interesting, andsatisfying results. Nunberg finds more to criticize inexperts who complain about language change, sure thatthey are smarter than the language (or its users), than inthose who create and spread new words and uses. Lereragrees with most of our contributors, writing, “We shouldnot see our language as debased. The history of Englishis a history of invention: of finding new words and newselves, of coining phrases that may gather currency in alinguistic marketplace.” As Nunberg writes in the introduction to a 2004collection of his essays, changes in language can serveas clues to important changes in society itself. Lists of characteristics and values that define American cultureinclude words like change, innovation, melting pot,practicality, directness. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then,that American English is constantly changing and thatthose changes mirror other changes in the culture.
Robin L. Yeager 
 About This Issue
 J 
OURNAL
USA
Society & Values 
“Ginormous” is one of about 100 new words to be added to the next printing of 
 Merriam-Webster’s
 
Collegiate
 
Dictionary 
.
   ©   A   P   I  m  a  g  e  s   /   C   h  a  r   l  e  s   K  r  u  p  a

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