Artificial Words

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” -George Orwell

PRI’s The World had a segment on the Hebrew language and mentioned how academics were searching to create new words in Hebrew. This isn’t a feature specific to Hebrew. There are plenty of languages which have regulatory authorities whose role is to create new, official words for those languages.

I find this silly.

In the The World’s piece, they discuss how academics are coming up with a word for “hacker,” despite the Israeli population (including the media and government) using the word hacker. Since the population is already using the word, language academies are fighting a losing battle. In a world where I can, for no cost, engage in a video conference call with someone in Israel, France, and Wales simultaneously, the integration of foreign words into languages can’t be prevented.

The French language academy has even produced a list of English words which have been incorporated into French that they want banned. French law also requires that 40% of the content played on French TV and radio stations be in French.

Language is alive. It changes as society changes, as people change, as the world changes.  English speakers of today struggle with the works of Shakespeare and Beowulf requires a translation. And those changes in the English language took place before the invention of telegraphs, phones, the internet, and modern travel. Now that we live in a society where all of those things are possible, changes to language will only happen faster.

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