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When Spanish owns English words1

  • Isabel Balteiro

The English language and the Internet, both separately and taken together, are nowadays well-acknowledged as powerful forces which influence and affect the lexico-grammatical characteristics of other languages world-wide. In fact, many authors like Crystal (2004) have pointed out the emergence of the so-called Netspeak, that is, the language used in the Net or World Wide Web; as Crystal himself (2004: 19) puts it, ‘a type of language displaying features that are unique to the Internet […] arising out of its character as a medium which is electronic, global and interactive’. This ‘language’, however, may be differently understood: either as an adaptation of the English language proper to internet requirements and purposes, or as a new and rapidly-changing and developing language as a result of a rapid evolution or adaptation to Internet requirements of almost all world languages, for whom English is a trendsetter. If the second and probably most plausible interpretation is adopted, there are three salient features of ‘Netspeak’: (a) the rapid expansion of all its new linguistic developments thanks to the Internet itself, which may lead to the generalization and widespread acceptance of new words, coinages, or meanings, hundreds of times faster than was the case with the printed media. As said above, (b) the visible influence of English, the most prevalent language on the Internet. Consequently, (c) this new language tends to reduce the ‘distance’ between English and other languages as well as the ignorance of the former by speakers of other languages, since the ‘Netspeak’ version of the latter adopts grammatical, syntactic and lexical features of English. Thus, linguistic differences may even disappear when code-switching and/or borrowing occurs, as whole fragments of English appear in other language contexts. As a consequence of the new situation, an ideal context appears for interlanguage or multilingual word formation to thrive: puns, blends, compounds and word creativity in general find in the web the ideal place to gain rapid acceptance world-wide, as a result of fashion, coincidence, or sheer merit of the new linguistic proposals.

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This work has been carried out with funding provided by the Spanish Ministry of Education, through the 2008-2011 R&D&I National plan for Human Resources Mobility (Programa Nacional de Movilidad de Recursos Humanos del Plan Nacional de I-D+i 2008-2011). Many thanks are also due to my colleague Dr Miguel Ángel Campos, to whom I am indebted for calling my attention to this phenomenon.

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Crystal, D. 2004. A Glossary of Netspeak and Textspeak. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
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English Today
  • ISSN: 0266-0784
  • EISSN: 1474-0567
  • URL: /core/journals/english-today
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