Thursday, September 29, 2005
the loss of precision
A similar phenomenon is happening with spelling. For people who rarely write with pen and paper, spelling becomes more difficult. I have never been a good speller myself, but I realize that very few people really are. Few people know spelling rules anymore. Spell checkers have saved us much effort, but have become a crutch. We have stopped thinking about how words are composed, and speech has become disconnected from writing. I am not a linguist, but I suspect our pronunciation is gradually becoming less grounded in how a word is spelled. We are dropping syllables as we say words we long longer need to think about spelling.
The next big shift will happen as voice recognition matures to allow speaker-independent input in noisy environments. With that, we may finally stop writing altogether, expect for formal pieces. Dictation will change how we relate to words. If voice recognition is accurate enough that we don't need to watch a screen as we talk, we may end up rambling, just as we do in ordinary speech. But we won't have a companion who asks questions to check the meaning of the rambling. If our relationship to words become more oral, then we run the risks that accompany slang. People mimic words and phrases without a proper understanding of what the phrase is intended to mean. I notice people often use slang phrases in the exact opposite way they were intended.