Losing the Language?

The obligatory link: Texting blamed for bad English

It shouldn't come as any surprise that this one falls near and dear to my heart, being somewhat of a stickler for the written language (and even I can be colored guilty of any number of emoticons, which will probably find their way into use here, eventually). The question is, though, are we seeing the death of written English, or its next form? To wit:

(All examples pulled from Wikipedia articles, unless otherwise noted - search English Language for a starting point.)
Starting with the Old English, which began around the fifth century, and ended around the eleventh century:
Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum

How many people now can really read that? Well, maybe if you've done extensive study of the story of Beowulf, but that's certainly not going to form a majority. So, let's move on.

In the middle of the eleventh century though the beginning of the fifteenth, we have Middle English:
And smale fowles maken melodye, That slepen al the niȝt with open ye—

Now, we've lost most of the characters which we modern folk would consider "strange", with the exception of the 3-lookin' deal which appears to be the approximation of a "gh". Still, much more readable than the Old English example, and most people could probably puzzle it out.

That brings us to Early Modern English, from the middle of the fifteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosèd here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

From Shakespeare's tombstone, attributed to the bard himself. Again, the trend toward what we consider English today is evident, and the meaning should now be plain without any need for guesswork.

After that, the language that we consider English today developed. Now, did you notice, the times between the changes have grown considerably shorter since the beginning. Old English lasted about 650 years, Middle English a respectable 400 years, while Early Modern English lasted about 200 years, and Modern English has lasted about that long as well. Though, there are obvious changes even in the past 200 years, they deal more in word choice than spelling, at least until recently. (Consider, for example, the Declaration of Independence versus any of my posts here.)

Now, I'm not trying to say that text messaging and instant messaging is necessarily bringing about the next revolution in written English, but based on the timeline of the language, aren't we slightly overdue for just such an event? Until it's proved beyond the slightest doubt, though, and even beyond... "If u c m3 doin ths"... kick me. Hard.

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