Language is the basic tool of communication all over the world. It can be used in many different ways and for different purposes. In order to perform various activities such as working, playing, and writing, language becomes a vital means. Without language, we may not be in a position to communicate with each other, because there will be a lack of information flow. There are three main aspects of language: intention, information, and flow. Different people have different languages which they understand well. This paper focusses on the use of language, how language has evolved over time, and how language can be taken out of context.
Language is used to mean different things by different people. Moreover, there is language that is used by a specific group of people; if used by other people, the outcome can be looked at as racism among others. For instance, a black person can easily use the word “nigga” or “nigger”. When a white man uses it, it appears out of context and, in most cases, implies a racial meaning. In the St. Petersburg times, Finegan & Rickford (2004) asserted that the use of the word “nigger” could be the worse racial slur. Nonetheless, it has a long history of the word use, and there is a need to understand why and how it is used in every particular context. Kennedy (2002) says, “Nigger is arguably the most consequential social insult in American History, though, at the same time, a word that reminds us of the ‘ironies and dilemmas, tragedies and glories of the American experience”. According to Duranti (2009), the word “nigger” invokes feelings of hate, hostility, oppression, and violence that represent a portion of the American history.
Nigger portrays black men people as the citizens of second class who are less human. However, Black people reach agreement claiming that this word “nigger” should not be removed from English (Clark, 1993). They explain their wishes by the historical importance of the word; for instance, black revolutionaries believe the whites should not use this word. The Black youth in the modern day use the word “nigger” in the hip-hop culture. On the other hand, Bearne (1999) insists that this word can be used by everyone including the whites. What matters is the context in which it is used.
A simple phrase when taken out of context can result in mix-up and great confusion. Phrases have different meanings in different countries. For instance, the word ‘coger’ in Spain means “to take or grasp something” but in Latin American context, it means “to have an intimate relationship with another person”. This means that when Spanish individual uses the word when talking to a Latin American, the intended meaning may be changed (Clark, 1993). Another good example is the word “goma”. This is a colloquial term used to mean hangover by the people of Costa Rica. The typical meaning of the word “goma” known to everyone is “rubber”. Therefore, it is important to note that context is important depending on one’s regional location. A single world could have gazillion of meanings all over the world. Nonetheless, there exist ambiguous contexts that give some situations and word a totally different example. These are mostly used by comedians to stimulate laughter from their audiences (Benston, 1982). Let us consider this conversation:
Will: Teacher, would you punish me for something I did not do?
Teacher: No, of course not.
Will: Good, because I did not do my homework.
Louis C. K. is thought to be a rape apologist, because he supported Daniel Tosh on his joke about rape via a tweet. Louis claims that he was unaware of the rape joke and the intensity of his tweet to his supporters. Just because Louis was not enlightened on the rape joke, it resulted in making an innocent tweet that turned out to work against him. He claimed that he did not know the part of the story where it is implied that rape meant something totally different for the police women. It is clear that Louis is not a rape apologist, but the context in which he tweeted makes him look like one. Therefore, it is possible to be misunderstood when one uses the right language but in the wrong context. This clearly shows the importance of using the right language at the right place.
As time flies by, language continues to evolve, and it is right to say that no language is the same as it was a few years ago (Aitichison, 1991). Language can be considered to be a living organism and therefore undergoes evolution. The internet greatly contributes to evolving of language; it is possible to create a catalogue of slang that can be understood by many online users. There are several ways in which language changes. The first way is through language learning. There are a lot of transformations in language from generation to generation. In most cases, everyone creates a grammar and lexicon depending on the input one has received from the older generation, say parents, older siblings, and other members of the community. Each person picks up the language differently causing its transformation.
Secondly, there is language contact. When two communities contact while trading, during migration, and also during social events, it is unavoidable for them to borrow a few words, sounds, and syllables from each other. This integration results in modified languages of both sides leading to the evolution of the original languages. In addition, natural process can cause language to change rapidly. Syncope, apocope, assimilation, and dissimilation are examples of natural processes (Young, 2004). In some scenarios, the spelling of a given word may remain the same while the sound changes; this is a part of evolution.
Furthermore, fashion is a great contributor to the language change (Aitichison, 1991). New forms of words are coined day after day. For instance, slang that was used in the 1960’s may not be relevant to an individual who was born in the 1990’s. With time, fashion changes, and this may result in different ways of pronunciation of words creating new prototype sounds.
It is important that individuals embrace language evolution in order to be in a position to communicate with the current world (Biber, Conrad, & Reppen, 1998). Through language evolution, people are able to express themselves using the language that they fully understand as opposed to the circumstances they would have to use the language that do not fully understand. Language was created by human beings; it is therefore clear to everyone that the same human beings can create new languages whenever they want to. For instance, if a certain word is seen to have a bad meaning and encourages hate amongst people, it is reasonable that people stop using the word so as to promote love (Davis, 1999).
As discussed above, language is the basic tool of communication between any two people or communities. Language has evolved over time due to various reasons. That is why a simple phrase can put someone in trouble just because it was used in the wrong context thereby giving a meaning that was not intended. Words have different meanings in different languages. Therefore, it is of great importance that one knows where and when to use a certain word. As illustrated, Louis C. K landed in trouble by using language in the wrong context. Everyone should accept language change in order to be in a position to communicate effectively. No given language remains as it was many years ago; language evolution is inevitable.