Because Linguistics

Everyday, shortly after I wake up, I grab a cup of hot coffee and I sit down to read the New York Times, check the T-shirt of the day on www.riptapparel.com, and finally I check Dictionary.com to see the word of the day and browse through the site’s other content.  Today, I happened across an interesting blog post discussing the new ways the word because is being used.  I thought it would also make an interesting subject to discuss in my own blog, because: rhetoric.

If you are a careful reader, you may have noticed that I chose to forego the traditional use of the prepositional modifier of following because.  As the blog post here discusses, people are using the word because in a new (within the past 5 years), terse style that not only changes the way sentences sound, but also the way they are structured.  As the blog’s author notes, because x (the designation used within the blog) is being used similar to the way prepositions are used and also as a connective that can link loosely associated ideas.  For instance, a person might say: “I’m super excited for the spring semester, because graduation!”

The new ways because is being used may not seem particularly groundbreaking, and although it may not catch as much attention as other new words such as twerk and selfie; it represents a marked reformation of a common word.  Because has a long standing history and specific method of use, so how is it that new qualities have been accepted by nearly everyone, from mainstream media to literary organizations?  Because internet.

The 20th century linguist Ferdinand de Saussure notably demonstrated that language cannot be changed by a singular person.  Instead, he theorized that language is like a living organism and evolves over time, gaining its shape and meaning through a series of negations, i.e. it works similar to binary code in computers.  Although this is a gross oversimplification of his ideas, I believe it sheds some light on why words change so rapidly in modern society.

The internet has rapidly accelerated communication and also created a wealth of new information that requires new words and language in order to be adequately discussed.  Additionally, the widespread use of text as a primary method of communication is developing a more malleable type of language, in order to enable more rapid and effective exchanges.  Just think of the large number of words that have entered the lexicon since the Internet’s inception.  Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other websites allow words like epic, winning, fail, and like to obtain new meanings and uses almost overnight.

As we continue through the final week of the online session, it’s becoming easier to see the many ways rhetoric connects to technology and life generally.  This specific blog post relates to an online class about rhetoric in several ways.  First, as the sound and shape of language changes, so to does rhetorical argument.  In order to effectively use emotional and credibility appeals, a rhetorician must adapt to new uses of language.  Secondly, this class is being conducted online and utilizes many online applications, so an understanding of how to use language effectively in the online community is directly relevant.  Finally, because is a word with particular qualities that make it a valuable tool for any rhetorical argument.  New methods of using the connective word, mean new ways to logically shape an argument and link ideas.

As one of my favorite words to use in papers and everyday speech, I’m pretty excited about the new ways I can use because.  Rhetorically speaking, why? Because because!

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One thought on “Because Linguistics

  1. Josh,
    Thank you for this post because I found it interesting. What you are focusing on in this post is the continual evolution of language and how that evolution affects, or maybe even directs, our communicative processes. I am always interested in how language works. More importantly, I am interested in how technology affects our use of language.

    Last spring I got involved in a conversation about whether something would be considered “correct or incorrect”. This conversation involved a mathematics professor, an education professor and myself. We were informed by the education professor that “correct” or “incorrect” were incorrect terminology. Instead we should use “standard or non-standard”, “appropriate or not appropriate” when referring to language. Likewise, when recently interviewing potential faculty, we asked them how they made people with non-standard dialects feel valued in class.

    The role of language as a gatekeeper and the importance of technology and what I might call the rhetoric of technology are other possible concerns.

    Thanks for your post.

    Dr. Martin

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