Kerry Maxwell: Neologisms in the 21st Century

Language change in the 21st century. New media – the Web, social media tools – have made both written and spoken language much more ‘visible’. They have galvanized an interest in words and provided a platform for new coinages to spread and propagate.

Why does language change?

Dynamic relationship between language and society – as our world develops, we need mechanisms for describing new concepts, and expressing our changing ideas and concerns.

In particular, increased use of electronic communication (e.g. texting, social media) has given us new language forms and expressions largely driven by operational issues (e.g. key presses, constraints on text length) or a need to compensate for non-verbal communication (i.e. hand gestures, facial expressions, etc.)

How are new words created?

Detailed explanation of key tenets of word formation – new senses, compounding, blending, affixation, derivation/inflection, acronyms/abbreviations, borrowing – with accompanying  exploration of some contemporary examples.

Which new words survive?

Contributing factors in making a word more likely to ‘stick’ – ease of use/interpretation, usefulness (does the word fill a lexical gap?, relevance in society over time), exposure, potential for extension (e.g. derivation).

English as a global language innovator

Impact of English neologisms on other languages. English as a lingua franca and the language of the Internet.

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