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sphinx/[]/ n. 史芬克斯(希腊神话人物), 人面狮身像, 天蛾...



Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing.

When America emerged from the ashes of a bruising war with Britain in 1814, the nation was far from united. Noah Webster thought that a common language would bring people together and help create a new identity that would make the country truly independent of the British.


Webster's dictionary, now in its 11th edition, adopted the Americanised spellings familiar today - er instead of re in theatre, dropping the u from colour, and losing the double l from words such as traveller. It also documented new words that were uniquely American such as skunk, opossum, hickory, squash and chowder.

《韦氏词典?#24223;?#22312;已经是第11版了,它采用我们现在熟悉的美式拼写——theatre中的re变为er,去掉colour中的u,把一些单词中的两个l如traveller变为一个l。词典中也?#31456;?#20102;一些美国独有的新词汇,如skunk(臭鼬), opossum(负鼠), hickory(山核桃), squash(南?#24076;?#21644; chowder(杂烩)。

An American Dictionary of the English Language took 18 years to complete and Webster learned 26 other languages in order to research the etymology of its 70,000 entries.


The internet is creating a similar language evolution, but at a much faster pace.


There are now thought to be some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. And with half the population of China now on line, many of them are written in Chinese.


Still, some linguists predict that within 10 years English will dominate the internet - but in forms very different to what we accept and recognise as English today.


That's because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don't have to worry about their accent.


"The internet enfranchises people who are not native speakers to use English in significant and meaningful ways," says Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington DC.


Users of Facebook already socialise in a number of different "Englishes" including Indian English, or Hinglish, Spanglish (Spanish English) and Konglish (Korean English). While these variations have long existed within individual cultures, they're now expanding and comingling online.


"On the internet, all that matters is that people can communicate - nobody has a right to tell them what the language should be," says Baron. "If you can talk Facebook into putting up pages, you have a language that has political and social standing even if it doesn't have much in the way of linguistic uniqueness."


Some words are adaptations of traditional English: In Singlish, or Singaporean English, "blur" means "confused" or "slow": "She came into the conversation late and was blur as a result."

有些单词与传统英语出入较大:在?#24405;?#22369;英语?#26657;癰lur” 意为“困惑的”或“缓慢的”,例句:“聊天的时候她很迟才加入讨论,因此有些困惑。”

Others combine English words to make something new. In Konglish, "skinship" means intimate physical contact: handholding, touching, caressing.


Technology companies are tapping into the new English variations with products aimed at enabling users to add words that are not already in the English dictionary.


And most large companies have English websites, while smaller businesses are learning that they need a common language - English - to reach global customers.


"While most people don't speak English as their first language, there is a special commercial and social role for English driven by modern forms of entertainment," says Robert Munro, a computational linguist and head of, a language technology company in California.

?#20843;?#28982;大多数人的母语都不是英语,但现代娱乐方式让英语发挥着特殊的商业和社会作用,” 加利福尼亚一家名为Idibon的语言公司的老总,计算机语言学家罗伯特-芒罗说。

"The prevalence of English movies in regions where there is not much technology other than cell phones and DVDs makes English an aspirational language. People think it's the language of the digital age."


In previous centuries, the convergence of cultures and trade led to the emergence of pidgin - a streamlined system of communication that has simple grammatical structure, says Michael Ullman, director of research at Georgetown University's Brain and Language Lab.


When the next generation of pidgin speakers begins to add vocabulary and grammar, it becomes a distinct Creole language. "You get different endings, it's more complex and systematised. Something like that could be happening to English on the web," he says.


小编注:克里奥尔语(Creole Language)指一种混合多种语言词汇,有时也掺杂一些其他语言文法的一种语言,这个词是用以泛指所有的“混合语”。

Take Hinglish. Hinglish is a blend of Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English and is so widespread that it's even being taught to British diplomats.


Mobile phone companies are also updating their apps to reflect its growing use.


In Hinglish, a co-brother is a brother-in-law; eve-teasing means sexual harassment; an emergency crew responding to a crisis might be described as 'airdashing', and somewhat confusing to football fans, a 'stadium' refers to a bald man with a fringe of hair. There's even a new concept of time - "pre-pone", the opposite of postpone, meaning "to bring something forward".

在印式英语?#26657;琧o-brother意为姐夫、妹夫或小舅子;eve-teasing意为性骚扰;紧?#26412;?#25588;队对突发?#24405;?#30340;?#20174;?#21487;能会被描述为 airdashing,而令球迷有些困惑的是,stadium指的是头发稀疏的秃顶男人。就连表示时间?#21152;?#26032;的概念——pre-pone,延期的反义词,意为“提前”。

The increasing prevalence of the internet in everyday life means that language online is not a zero sum game. Instead, it allows multiple languages to flourish.


"Most people actually speak multiple languages - it's less common to only speak one," says Mr Munro. "English has taken its place as the world's lingua franca, but it's not pushing out other languages."

“实际?#24076;?#24456;多人都会说多种语言,只会说一种语言的人是很少见的。” 芒罗先生说。“英语已经成为世界的通用语,但它并不排挤其他语言。”

Instead, other languages are pushing their way into English, and in the process creating something new.


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