The phenomenon of language as we know it today is the result of evolution or continuing growth, as old as human civilization itself. And, just as human civilization is growth or changing fast, rather at a feverish pace, so is the phenomenon of language. It is all the more important to note now that we are in the 21st century. Way back in 1970 Alvin Toffler alerted us to the speed at which society all over the world, especially in the west, has been undergoing change in recent years. Our behaviiour patterns and mental images are changing fast. As he says, “the entire knowledge system in undergoing violent upheaval.” The result is that language, that is the code to convey knowledge or information is also becoming highly ‘purposive’, condensed and ingeniously ‘engineered’.
The immediate result of this change in language is reflected in words. Newer and newer words are being coined and put into currency from all over the world. According to the senior editor of ‘The Random House Dictionary of the English Language’, “The words we use are changing faster today and not merely on the slang level, but on every level. The rapidity with which words come and go is vastly accelerated. This seems to be true not only of English, but French, Russian and Japanese as well. The number of words pouring in, on account of scientific, technical, commercial and political developments, is so large of dictionaries cannot do full justice to them”.
More and more words means more and more work for lexicographers, i.e., compiler of dictionaries. It has been very interestingly suggested that, of the estimated 450,000 to 550,000 ‘usable’ words in English today, only about 250,000 could have understood by Shakespeare, the greatest writer in English who lived and wrote in the later phase of the 16th century. It means that there has been addition of about 300,000 words to English between around 1600 and 1960. More than one third of ‘Collins Cobuild Dictionary’ state that they had daily access to about 20 million words “with many more in specialized stores”, coming in from “books, magazines, newspaper, pamphlets, leaf-lets, conversation, radio and television broadcasts”.
It is, however, very interesting to note that the frequently used words are just about 2000-3000. They are, as John Sinclair says. “The powerhouse of the language”. Everyday communication takes place within this limited range. In 1953 Michael West complied and published ‘A General Service List of English Words’ with the premise that everyday reading, writing and speaking could very well be managed within this ‘controlled vocabulary’.
Actually, dictionaries are compiled by team of trained and experienced who cover the whole, or almost the whole, of current literature. Primarily they go though the works of established writers and listen to the conversation and speeches-live or taped-of eminent speakers and carefully observe how, in many different ways, words are used. They, in fact, filter the stream of literature through their minds and also come down to see the vast use of a limited, or delimited, number of words.
Bba Business Communication: Study Material of, Means/Media of Communication: Importance of Verbalization or Use of Words., Topic is The Contribution of the Corporate World
If, as we have seen above, communication can take place within such a limited range of basic words as listed by Michael West, how is it that daily new word are being added to the language we use? And what is the relevance of these new words to a user of English in general and to a business executive in particular? The answer is quite simple. The corporate world itself is the most vibrant and volatile world. It puts all modern development-scientific, economic, political, and scholarly-everything to its advantage. And the transmission of information in the modern world is very quick.
The term ‘global village’ has already become old, or at least it has lost its excitement. A modern household is an ‘informed’ household that is equipped with at least a few of the present day technologies like VCR, CD, laser disc, fax-machine, answering machine, voice mail, computer, cellular phone, internet etc. so, in no time we come to know what is happening at the other end of the world and share it with the person/persons/colleagues next to us.
Here it is important to note that the American have made significant contribution to English in the context of business communication. They have shown great inclination towards the use of acronyms together with a mixture of slang. So we have words like ‘snafu’ (situation normal all fouled up), ‘E-mail’, ‘edutech’, ‘edutainment’, ‘netiquette’, ‘affluenza’ (a psychological malaise of the rich), ‘kidult’ (a TV programme for all ages), ‘lexigram’ (a set of symbols representing words), ‘megalogue’ (a promotional catalogue), ‘megaplex’, guesstimate’, ‘workaholic’, controloholic’, ‘mechatronics’ (a combination of mechanical engineering and electronics) ‘zaitech’ (investment by a company in financial markets as a means of boosting its earnings) and so on.
How many these words will find a permanent place in English usage and how many will be dropped on the way (certainly not out of the dictionaries), only time will tell. Perhaps a very large number of them will travel across the globe and gain wide currency, especially in the business world. However, spoken English being more flexible will be more accommodating. Written English, being more formal and conservative, will carefully pick and choose, and standardize the use of the new coinages.
By now it has become clear that English is the most important language in the world. It is not the language spoken by the largest number of people in the world. That credit goes to Chinese. But statistically, it is the second language, and is spoken by over a billion people as their first or second language across the globe. It may seem somewhat odd that English, the language of a small group of islands, situated in the northwest of Europe, should have so rapidly become the most widely used language in the world.