Language needs to be updated with changing times, culture and generations

 Abstract


Media runs in my veins mixed with blood ! It’s part of my culture.
My grandfather, father, father-in-law, husband and I… all are associated with different forms of media, be it news agency, newspaper, magazine or broadcast media.

When we sit over a cup of tea, we talk about the way media has taken shape in all these years. When my grandfather stepped in the shoes of journalism, it was an era of journalistic ethics. When my father and father-in-law inherited the same shoes, they found the scenario tougher but still manageable. But when it came to Me and my husband, the legacy was subjective. We had inherited journalistic language and finesse from our parents but as we entered the real world, things were not the same.

Mediatization, a word came into existence in the last decade, has created a void between the generations. With an experience of almost 4 decades, the seniors among us, feel that media and journalism has lost its charm with time. With special mention to the language in media today, the seniors don’t find it precise.

Rather We, today’s media persons always advocate the continuous alteration of language in media. No doubt, It has transformed our society from information scarcity to information abundance.

In the age of hashtags#, Social media slangs, 140 character usage limit… the use of language also needs to be updated. Expressing more while writing less has been media’s thumb rule for decades, but now is the right time to imbibe it.

An unmatched example are emojis. We have seen emojis replacing words in recent times. Specially after transformation tools came into fashion which made conversion of words to emojis so easy. Also a landmark achievement in this field was emoji  commonly known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ being declared word of the year in 2015.

Thus, my paper would discuss the future of language in media. It would detail the language usage in various media scenario, times and culture. It would seek answers to questions like :

  1. Would ever emojis would be used in headlines in place of words ?
  2. With constraint of space (print) and time (electronic), emojis would replace the pictures and words used in news stories ?
  3. What should be the standards of language usage in the years to come when already we can see the amendments ?
  4. How the need of expressing in less words would become a habit for the generations to come ?
  5. We as media persons would be able to address the challenges that New media is going to face in coming years ?

While writing full paper, all these questions and many more would be answered and leave a comprehensive detailed stylesheet for the future generations.


Introduction

Change is inevitable. And when it come to media, its thorough. Ask people, those who are in media, around media, consumers of media or critics of media – What has been the greatest change in media in last 3 decades ? Answers would be somewhat internet, new media, social media etc. Off course these have metamorphosed the media industry, But what change actually they brought in media ?

1. They have restyled the thinking pattern of media persons, critics and consumers.
2. They have transformed the technique of storytelling, and has reshaped the reasoning ability of media practitioners.
3. They have forced media people to convey in limitations – sometimes word limit and sometimes without words.
4. They have made ‘mass’ communication to ‘just talk’ communication.
5. They have even forced media houses to develop a trendy stylesheet.

One thing that’s common in all the above is the Language. 

Language is communication using a system of arbitrary vocal sounds, written symbols, signs, or gestures in conventional ways with conventional meanings.

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Language is an incredible tool and like any great power, can be used for good and evil. But, how communication was done when there was no language ? It all started with sign language when there were no words. People used signs and symbols to convey the meaning. Then pictures were drawn to communicate. History has evidences that cave walls were full of such imagery. Very slowly words entered the scene and now they are the most admired communication tool till date.

Invention of language is no where less remarkable than the invention of wheel, which is considered to be the most significant invention of all times. Yes, language is no less than that. From signs and symbols to imagery to words and now again going back to the signs and symbols in the form of emojis. Isn’t it amazing that now we are going back to the era of signs and images. Life has taken a full circle for the ‘language’ and it’s going back to the minimalistic phase. The era where talking less and saying more is considered intelligent.

Language in media has taken a leap in last decade and is continuously upgrading itself. That is the need of the hour as well. Just imagine a media person communicating to friends in the most used-to vocabulary and suddenly when it comes to reporting a story, his vocabulary transforms into the far-fetched one. Social media vocabulary is common to everyone these days, irrespective of any resistance. So, when it comes to writing for the people or reporting events for the people, why language has to be different ? Why not, the write up should be in the same language as the lingo is ?

The standards of language use in media has gone very high according to the youth, but if you speak to senior journalists, it has gone in trough. That is the difference in generation, commonly called as generation gap. Whenever we media persons come together, we communicate in the most general way as our viewers or listeners. So while telling a story, how can one be completely different in the vocabulary.

Whenever you are in discussion with the previous generation journalists or media persons, you would find them disappointed with the upcoming language revolution in media industry. Whereas the new comers in the field are confused. They are being taught the subject by these senior journalists at various media institutions and thus, carry their frame of mind. When it comes to social life, communication is altogether different. And when they come in the professional field… the mainstream media… things are unexpectedly dissimilar.

Although what’s important is how you use language. How you say something is often more important than what you actually mean. For media professionals this is a daring task to use language in the right way to convey the desired meaning. Talk less…say more or sometimes don’t say at all and the message is conveyed just by an image, cartoon, symbol or emoji.

New ways of communicating

Expressing more while writing less has been media’s thumb rule. This rule has been powered by the language alteration. Internet has a huge impact on written language. We use a different kind of language on internet. Where as Chatting has it’s own language. This language is a combination of shorthand, shortened words, creative spellings using uppercase and lowercase, as well as use of punctuation marks. Moreover, writing in caps is considered rude in internet language.

Social media is making it easier than ever to contribute to the evolution of language. Hope calling it evolution, does not offend a particular section of people like my Grandparents or Parents. They are of the era when media had all good qualities. Media had a name, character and responsibility. They never approve manipulation of language at any cost. But today’s generation is willing not only to accept the language alteration, but also approves and uses with pride.

From unfriend to selfie, social media is clearly having an impact on language. Social media slangs are so much in fashion that while writing this paper, many times I used short commands or short forms or slangs. After realising that this paper is a research document and need not be communicated in slangs, I had to remove them. This is the effect of chatting and messaging with social media’s peculiar writing practice. It has reached the next level. They are no more style, rather have become a habit.

The 140-character limit in twitter is nothing less than a challenge. It forces you to think in 140 characters. You have to make the most of what you want to say in the available limit. This sometimes helps you to be precise and at other times this restriction can make you crazy. While adjusting the words and cutting short the length, actual meaning of what you wanted to convey lags behind, thus destroying the intention. Recently twitter has relaxed this 140 character limit by exempting media attachments such as photos, videos and polls as well as tweets that are quoted in a retweet from the character limit.

Hashtags#, are the headline of social media. They are clickable keywords used to categorise tweets. They are a way of categorising content and tracking topics on Twitter and other social media platforms. They have successfully replaced intellectual social gatherings. It is a way of tagging, collating, and comparing ideas, claims, and evidence so that those specifically interested in collaboration come together. They have created homogenous groups who no more meet and discuss issues over a cup of coffee or tea. Rather issues are discussed online with the help of hashtag#, while being in their own premises.

Research Paper - New Media Language 9The tweet that invented Hashtag#

Similar is Emoji mania. Emojis are ideograms or smileys used in electronic messages and Web pages. The use of emoji’s originated in Japan, and the word emoji means “picture character.” Today, there are countless emoticons in use around the Internet. Best part is more and more are being created every single day.

Just a few years ago, people used parentheses to express emotions, like the smiley 🙂 or the sad face 😦 or the winky ;). But in Japan in 1999, Shigetaka Kurita created the first prototypes for the emoji.

Research Paper - New Media Language 4Shigetaka Kurita with the first emojis

Instead of writing full sentences or a number of words – an emoji can solve the purpose easily and effectively. Emojis have been replacing words for quite some time. Now, even there are tools that would help one to transform their words into right emoticons to convey the best meaning. New devices have this feature that you type words and the gadget gives you emoji options for a number of words and you can easily replace these words with emojis in just one click.

Emojis have become so important that emoji is an altogether keyboard in your phone, pad or laptop. Emojis have skin colour and many more innovations are on their way to reach you sooner or later. A landmark achievement in this field was when emoji  commonly known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’, for the first time ever, was declared word of the year in 2015 by the Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press have partnered with leading mobile technology business Swiftkey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and  was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.

All this has raised questions in my mind – What if one day when we open newspapers in the morning or go through online news, we would find headlines carrying emoticons in place of words and expression.

In times to come headlines might read like : 

  1. ’Students  as 12th results are out’
  2. ’Demonetisation left people 😳’
  3. ’💔husband killed wife’
  4. ‘👫ratio difference in control’
  5. ’Govt comes with 👨‍👩‍👧 policy’
  6. ‘India wins 🏏 world cup’
  7. ’👯banned in cricket’
  8. ’💐🌸🌷🌻🍁blossom in Mughal garden’
  9. ‘🚅 trial begins’
  10. ’🚦jumping, a non-bailable offence’

This is just one example. There are many more on their way to become reality. I believe this is actually the future of language usage in media. Although this seems weird and unreal for the time being, but in next decade, this renovation is awaited. This is a slow and steady process which would continue for years to come.

The rise of Hinglish in Media Research Paper - New Media Language 21

Language reconstruction is going slow but can be calculated if observed closely. Hinglish is the latest phrase in practise. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines, Hinglish as a language which is a mixture of English and Hindi, especially a type of English that includes many Hindi words. Hinglish is not yet an official language on census reports. But it is an altogether different keyboard just like English, Hindi or emoji. Still more people are fluent in the hybrid of Hindi and English than they are in English. Hinglish is actually overtaking the full english and Hindi fluency. Hinglish responds to the need for a modern, yet localised way of speaking which is also available to the masses.

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People aren’t just mixing words. They are creatively, actively, energetically reinventing them. I remember a chat with a friend few years back. We were talking in Hindi when suddenly an english word popped in our conversation. It sounded a bit misfit, but then, my friend kept on using english words in our Hindi chat. The dialogue went on, as these english words made the chit-chat interesting. It’s not that Hindi lacks equivalent words. Like one can say ‘kaam’ instead of ‘job’ or ‘pyar’ instead of ‘love’ or ‘vyasta’ in place of ‘busy’ or ‘zaroori’ in place of ‘important’ or ‘der’ instead of ‘late’ and ‘vikas’ in place of ‘development’. But minute changes or modifications in the language was adding ‘masala’ to the discussion. Now here, ‘masala’ can be replaced by ‘flavour’.

Although when it comes to my journalist father or father in law, situation is completely opposite. Being associated with Hindi print media, they are used to thinking and talking in Hindi. Surprisingly, in conversation with them, they can talk in Hindi or English for hours and on any topic without getting interrupted with the second language or even Hinglish. At the same time, they are very much active on social media and follow it’s rules with full sincerity. Now, they can live without the mix but can’t outlive in their journalistic or literary circle without upgrading themselves to the new media language.

India has over 422 million Hindi speakers who make up the country’s largest native language community. But Hinglish is widely spoken across the country – in rural households and urban malls, in educational institutions and conversations in Media organisations. For many young people, Hinglish is their native language.

If you observe closely, you would find that from a vendor to a shopkeeper, from your maid to your neighbour, everyone is using english and Hindi words mixed in harmony. This is how common people are talking these days, among themselves and with you as well.

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I tried to explore the social cause and effects of Hinglish growth in general and specifically in media. For this study, data was needed on why and under what contexts language shift is likely. Another interesting observation can be whether these Hinglish speakers are actually not fluent in any one language, or simply claim this because Hinglish has more social value than Hindi.

In my data collection process, 25 people were interviewed who actually claimed themselves to be bilingual i.e. Hindi and English speaking. At first they were asked to only use Hindi during our discussion. Later they were asked to only use English. We asked them casual questions, like their hobbies, childhood memories, interests, work related problems, married life etc. In conversation, none of them could converse completely in the language asked. They were mixing both languages. While talking in hindi, on an average, approximately 22.5% of their speech was in English. And while talking in english 18.5% of their conversation was in Hindi.

After the interview session, some of them even admitted that their only fluency is in hybrid Hinglish. Analysis of this dialogue is that with the advent of Hinglish, people cannot speak monolingual Hindi or English. Also, the scrutiny proved that the number of Hinglish speakers is growing by adopting speakers from the bilingual community who lose the need to use either language mono-lingually.

Coming to the media organizations, English speaking is associated with class and status. But there are less number of english newspapers/magazines or radio channels or TV channels. English media however, would take some more time to accept the Hindi interference. Although at times and depending on the need, they have also appreciated the magic of Hinglish.

Hindi media flourish because it has opened its heart and soul for the transformation. In the 21st century, Hindi has dissolved the bondage of grammar, mixing of Urdu and has flew to merge with English. This merger is creating wonders, as we can judge from the current scenario.

Strange but true, if you have applied for a job in hindi media, your english capabilities would also be judged equally. In case of a vacancy in Hindi media organisations, all communication is done in English. They ask you to write Hindi stories but would analyse and question you about your story in English. Whole interview would be in English. Preferably in Hinglish with changing times as it is the ‘talk of the town’.

Media language – Then and Now

Since ages, the media often uses language to manipulate us in ways we don’t always notice. Media language is the way in which the meaning of a media text is conveyed to the audience. Media is performing this task since its inception. Earlier it was through pure usage of language without any interfusion. Standard way of writing was accepted, using similar words and phrases for different stories. For political stories, a political method of writing was popularised. For crime stories, the write up would be of a particular shape. Entertainment reporting was given a bit leniency. But, overall the stories looked alike everyday.

Small changes in wording can make a huge difference to how someone perceives an information and whom it will reach. As in, we as media students are being taught – writing for the audience. This audience can be a man or a woman, a kid, youth, middle aged, oldies, businessman, government officials, bank officials, house wives, rickshaw puller, vendors, etc. Now developing a language that is suitable for all of them, was near to impossible. So stories were designed in a way keeping in mind the different interests of these people.

Always for media practitioners, talkative language is preferred over the difficult Hindi or english expressions. Earlier media persons got difficulty in getting accustomed to it. They had a mazy brain which never gave a green signal to them to move ahead. Rather, they were driving their mind on a yellow signal, cautiously but deliberately. This has helped in enriching the language with new words and phrases which are actually bilingual.

Newspapers, magazines, TV news channels, radio and advertisements are done with the blend of English and hindi. Even government campaigns like ‘Make in India’ has added words to Hindi vocabulary like digital, cashless, online, atm, paytm etc.

Some examples that you might have read but not noticed would endorse my analysis.

First Hindi newspaper which started using english words that too written in Hindi is Navbharat Times. Words like – Doggy was written as डॉगी, Cute as क्यूट, online as ऑनलाइन, cashless as कैशलेस, hackers as हैकर्स, development as डेवलपमेंट etc. This new stylesheet has been adopted by other newspapers and magazines as well. And guess what, it is being liked by one and all.

Dainik Bhaskar, one of the most popular Hindi newspaper is writing longer headlines with more number of words than expected from a newspaper. Hinglish is secondary here as using large number of words to convey the information, doesn’t sound a good idea in this jet age. Still people are liking it as its different from the usual one.

Mainstream newspapers using Hinglish are sometimes considered inept, but page 3 supplements have personalised language and is liked by all. The stories in the supplements are short, crisp and stylish. It has been for quite some time and now same is being applied to mainstream newspapers as well. Songs and film names are used as headlines like ‘Last Christmas’ on the death of singer George Michael and ‘Times are changing’ when Bob Dylan got Nobel for literature.

Recent film on wrestling ‘Dangal’ song ‘Bapu Hanikarak Hai’ started trending on twitter and social media for the Uttar Pradesh Samajwadi Party chaos just before elections, using the phrase for Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Words and phrases from social media like hashtags# and at the rate of @ have also been welcomed in print and electronic media.

Research Paper - New Media Language 1
In TV news channels, we often find no loyalty towards language. TV has its own vocabulary and stylesheet, which need not be bound to answer any literary question. The process which produce media language, as stories are moulded and modified by various minds and hands. Debates and shows on TV channels are influenced by the anchors understanding of the subject and his/her bent of mind. Sometimes these discussions go vulgar but continue to deliver the same content again and again. All this in the name of Television being a visual medium.

With an experience of 8 years in mainstream media, I have been a witness to newsroom tussles in TV news media organisations. The tussle is on usage of certain words and their spellings. For example, अँ is missing from Hindi stylesheet be it print or broadcast medium, although it’s available on the keyboard. अं is being used in place of अँ as well. In hindi, matras play a major role, but with time the matra is getting absurd when it comes to hindi writing. The difference of whether to use Badi or choti matra has diminished. नुक्ता has lost its relevance in hindi-urdu mixed writing.

Unaware of the actual Hindi and Urdu grammar, Media people find it easy to bend all the rules in their interest. Media persons are using the language according to their need and choice. Personalised understanding and usage is modifying the vocabulary. Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Its a medley of language being incorporated in media industry for the sake of development.

It’s not known much but Advertisements were the first to be published in English in Hindi newspapers. Irrespective of the fact that language has to be the same, as in for Hindi newspapers the advertisements must be in Hindi. At that time, no news items or stories were given the liberty of using a second languages. Also, Classified word is common for the classifieds in both Hindi and English newspaper.

Today advertisement industry has innovated and customised itself with the twist and turns of media language. OLX has a tagline – ‘No more dekhte hain’, Big bazar tagline is ‘big bachat’, Dominos ask ‘Hungry kya?’ Soft drink 7up ad campaign is ‘Bheja Fry? 7UP try’, Parachute advanced says ‘Gorgeous Hamesha’. There is one common thread that binds these powerful lines – all these statements are written in Hinglish.

Mediatization and Language alteration

Father of the electronic age Marshall McLuhan, coined a phrase ‘Medium is the message’. The phrase was introduced in McLuhan’s book Understanding Media : The Extension of Man, published in 1964. McLuhan proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. Now in the changing times, this phrase would help us understand the effect of mediatization on language alteration.

We have already discussed language alteration in detail, now we need to understand the hidden relationship between Mediatization and Language alteration. Mediatization is a theory which argues that the media shapes and frames the processes and discourse of political communication as well as the society in which that communication takes place. Mediatization and culturalization pleasantly remodel the media scenario for the betterment of the field. Moving from media to mediatization and from language use to language alteration is more than just rebranding.

The aim of the newly emerging field of media linguistics is to investigate the highly complex and dynamic interplay of language use in public spheres, newsrooms, and news source domains. It is suggested that media linguistics can significantly improve our understanding of language dynamics in an increasingly mediatized world. Being associated with media as a professional or as a faculty I have been an eyewitness to the advancement of language and its usage. In the last decade, modified media linguistics has been an unopposed winner in the brawl of writing ethics. Certain exceptions are there when it comes to changing time, culture and generations.

Another aspect to mediatization and language alteration is the people’s access to media. In half of human’s life span, media has refashioned itself and is just like “an old beer in a new packaging”. Whatever… this has led to reincarnation. Now, more and more people are compelled to use media be it social media. If using, other media forms, they expect the ease of social media usage everywhere. When they get it 👍 and when they don’t 👎.

Individuated Media is the new dimension. Individuated means distinguish from others of the same kind of just single out. It has already replaced Mass Media. Most predominant ways of obtaining and consuming news, entertainment, and other information is all mine. Be it my gadget – phone, pad, laptop, apps etc, or my personal choice. I have my iPad, my husband has his. Even my 4 year old son owns one. Now we all three have the liberty of watching a movie, listening to music or play games independently, without disturbing each other. This never makes us lonely, rather we enjoy each other’s space and ours too.

Challenges

The research paper comes up with many honest fact finding conclusion, still there are challenges waiting ahead.

1. Major issue is with the standardisation of language. How to set a paradigm for language in media ? Minimum standards need to be maintained as media language might be at risk in some time from now. Without set standards, everyone would use the languages according to his/her convenience. Which is very harmful for the future of media language.

2. Organisations and groups are working on language standardisation. Media houses and universities also need to work to keep language standards alive. But, a concrete body should work in this field without any influence.

3. Media language is believed to be perfect. What if linguistic fusion does not have universal acceptance in Indian media ?

4. Another obstacle is what modifications can we expect and how we are going to deal with it ? As media persons or media critics it’s annoying at times to convince every colleague and every consumer on some linguistic concern.

5. Another serious concern is whether expressing in less words would become a habit for all age groups ? In media houses, many hands and minds are working on a particular story. These minds have certain preconceived notions about language and its ethics. Now, How to persuade them to change for the rearrangement ?

6. Embracing language alteration in Vernacular media / Local media would be back breaking. Hybridisation of local language is a bit difficult as it has less scope and is very focussed to particular area to which it belongs. Their language is like their sword. They want to sharpen the sword but conditions apply.

7. Most contextual challenge is the ever upgrading language of social media. No idea what would be the language of social media in the years to come ? So, it’s difficult to project the exact language trend and its applicability as if now.

Conclusion

When I started researching for this paper, I was looking for research on media and language on internet. Being the easiest and accurate source of information today, it was quite obvious to go on with the search on google. All the results that appeared were on media and language with one thing common. The media word was considered as social media automatically by google. 90% of the search results were about social media and language. What to say now ? This is the fact of the time in the 17th year of the 21st century.

Language of google has also updated itself with the changing media meaning and perspective. Media word itself defines Print, electronic, film, internet, social media etc. But when it came to internet, it is taking the word media as social media. This is another sort of language upgradation.

Many versions from the horses mouth, agree that the language updation has acquired the mass appeal and now it’s hard to eliminate this trend, which has deeply affected everyday communication. People are getting used to this new language and are even enjoying it. There is not much contradiction about it because during this study, I have met many media consumers officially and unofficially. Both ways, these media freaks are infused with the adventures of media.

We are doing anything, but media is not away from us. In one or the other form, we are using media all the time. Sometimes we are watching TV may be while eating, other time we are on our social media via our phone, laptop or pad, next may be a newspaper or magazine with a cup of tea, then radio while driving, films while romancing, music while dancing, etc… etc… In short, you would be consuming media all the time with your choice.

Let me quote a research here to prove my point. An year old research but accurate enough to describe the changing pattern of media usage among the people. According to advertising company ZenithOptimedia on an average, people spend more than 490 minutes of their day with some sort of media. Television remains dominant, accounting for three hours of daily consumption—an hour more than the internet, in second place. The report measures media consumed in its traditional form , for example, broadcasts on television sets and newspapers in print. Watching videos on the web or reading a newspaper’s website counts as internet consumption.

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This data is from 2015. In last 2 years, no doubt social media has gained momentum. This has been substantiated with already quoted example of emoji becoming word of the year and Hinglish becoming Indian media’s favourite language. Although there is a community in media, who strongly backs Hinglish as growing phenomenon, there are also quite a few who brand this as another fad in India. Another point is that this moving back and forth between two languages, fails to give a clarity of thought and expression to serious work.

Language can never be same. That’s how we know language is alive. The change should be of the type which should be able to hold language. Staying crisp in writing has been a part of literature since ages and is being carried by social media today. Only need is to standardise it, so that language doesn’t change from person to person and media house to media house.

Internet emerging as the dominant media used, the vocabulary of social media has created the need for a new stylesheet. Social media moves in real time which makes it all the more vital to think twice before publishing. A style guide can be that “second thought” assuring us our content is appropriate and consistent. Not only this, style guide is a great way to encourage consistency in profile information, naming conventions, profile image size, tagging protocols etc. For a generation especially interested in brevity, this new stylesheet would be a boom.

Without any apprehension, Hinglish is the choice of the nation. Individuals play with language. Most of the time this enriches language but sometimes kills it. Our focus should be enrichment of language with in time and space, culture and generations. As soon as we attain an equilibrium in language usage, we would be victorious as 21st century media houses.


 This research paper is published in
Aligarh Journal of Linguistics, Volume 7, Number 1, 2017-18, Page number 113-131 
Department of Linguistics, Aligarh Muslim University