Digital Language

I read an interesting article published by Idibon, a company that helps other companies analyze their digital language data. I am so far from a techie that this last sentence was even a challenge to type, but it proved worthwhile reading. The author presented a report of a breakdown of the world’s languages, and how often they are used in comparison to other “languages,” such as texting and email. Here are some fascinating findings (just don’t tell older generations, who will mourn ‘the good old days’):

  • By word count, almost 7% of the world’s communication is now mediated by digital technologies
  • If considered its own language, email spam would account for more communication than any other language except Mandarin
  • Texting and instant-messaging account for 2% of the world’s communications, making “short message communication” the most popular and linguistically diverse form of written communication that has ever existed
  • If Facebook’s ‘like’ was considered a one-word language, it would be in the top 5% most widely spoken languages (!!!) (And if this were posted as my Facebook status, chances are high it would receive more than a few likes.)
We’ve come a long way from cuneiform. In a few years, will sixth-graders even bother learning about ancient writing systems? Or will T9-texting be as ancient as it gets?

(The graphic above illustrates the comparative size of the languages most used in face-to-face communication, as compared with digitalized or technologically-mediated communication. Note the bottom-right corner.)