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Bollywood in the Caribbean:English Language and New Media

It began with the invention of the printing press, Youtube is changing it and expanding on it: Prof. Dr Christian Mair, professor for English linguistics at the University of Freiburg, shows how dependent standard English is on the media.


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From the printing press to YouTube: The English language is in a state of constant development. (Foto: © 3ddock / fotolia.com)

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The English language is rich in varieties. However, for historical reasons only two varieties are recognized around the world as standards: British and American English. But modern media as a means of communication have brought about changes which, according to Mair, linguistic research needs to address.

 

  • Turning Point in the English Language

Digital and interactive media are leading to a situation in which not only the British and American standard have a high visibility and a global presence, but also numerous dialects which were previously only heard in certain regions or particular ethnic groups or social milieus. The increased visibility of non-standard variants in the media represents a turning point for the future shape of the English language.

 

  • Historical Development of the Language Driven by Media

The standardization of written English began in the late Middle Ages and received a crucial boost from the introduction of the printing press. The second stage of standardization was also driven by innovations in the media: Radio, film, and television contributed immensely to the standardization of spoken English. The global triumph of the American media industry continued into the early phase of the World Wide Web, and more than a few observers feared a globalization of culture, a loss of linguistic diversity, and a homogenization of the English language based on the American model.
 

  • Youtube: Language as Means of Distinguishing Oneself

The change was heralded in by interactivity: The public and its language already played a role in traditional media like radio and television — in live reports, programs with audience participation, and talk shows — but interactivity is at the very core of the new media. The Internet portal YouTube epitomizes this development with its ambiguous motto “Broadcast Yourself.” On the one hand this implies that anyone with an Internet connection can become a broadcaster, and on the other hand it calls on people to make themselves known to the world. An effective way to present oneself in public is to retain one’s own distinctive language — not only in the family or peer group, but on video, in a Web forum, or on a blog. In consequence, some dialects that were previously held in contempt have risen to the status of a symbol for popular lifestyles and an economic resource. Rap and hip-hop originated in the 1970s as a form of expression of disadvantaged youths in the New York borough the Bronx. Today their music and dialect fascinate youths all over the world. Blockbuster movies do not all come from Hollywood anymore, but also from Bombay (“Bollywood”) or Nigeria (“Nollywood”). And as the films spread, so do the predominant forms of English in these countries.

 

  • No Connection between Dialect and Region

At the beginning of the 21st century, English is a pluralistic language through and through. This course does not mean that all linguistic variants receive equal treatment. The British and American standards still have the longest reach. However, technology and media have also made them more open — for influence from the former English colonies, from other dialects, and from the languages of regional, social, and ethnic minorities. In some cases, dissemination in the media even serves to loosen the connection between dialect and region, idiom and community, or language and nation: White college students in the USA adopt the idioms of black rappers, British stars sing with an American accent, and the descendents of Turkish immigrants in Berlin rap in German.

Download the printable version here.

 

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Prof. Dr. Dr. Christian Mair

Christian Mair has held the chair for English linguistics at the University of Freiburg since 1990. His research in the past two decades has focused on a corpus-based description of contemporary English grammar as well as an investigation of regional variability and current processes of language change in selected standard and non-standard varieties. His publications on these topics include several monographs and more than 60 articles in journals and edited volumes. Moreover, he has penned several general introductions to the English language. He has served as visiting professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as well as the universities of Santiago de Compostela, Basel, und Zurich and has been a member of the national Science Council since February 2006. In his current research project at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) of the University of Freiburg, he is investigating current processes of diversification and pluricentric standardization in the three world languages English, French, and Spanish together with his colleague from the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures Stefan Pfänder. The project expands on traditional research emphases by taking computer-assisted communication into account.

 

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In the North American business world, Indian language formulas are gaining currency. IIn English youth language, which is spoken all over the world, expressions from African American English have replaced standard expressions.
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In English youth language, which is spoken all over the world, expressions from African American English have replaced standard expressions. In English youth language, which is spoken all over the world, expressions from African American English have replaced standard expressions.

 

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