Books : reviews

Gretchen McCulloch.
Because Internet: understanding how language is changing.
Vintage. 2019

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 11 May 2020

Have you ever puzzled over how to punctuate a text message? Wondered where memes came from? Fret no more: Because Internet is the perfect book for understanding how the internet is changing the English language, why that’s a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are.

Linguists study language in all its forms. Spoken language is the primary form, but written language is also of interest. Whilst most spoken language is informal, spontaneous, conversational, most written language is formal, studied, edited. Well, that was the case until the internet, with the explosion of informal writing in emails, texts, chats, and so on. This has provided linguists with a rich resource, with no recording and transcription required. McCulloch’s book covers a wide range of investigations into this informal internet language, and how it has been changing over time.

McCulloch explains why a full stop at the end of a text appears passive-aggressive, the evolution of emojis and why they aren’t a language, why the internet has enabled videophones when previous attempts failed, and multiple other fascinating insights into this new form of language.

This isn’t the post-literate world; this is a differently literate world. Because Internet.