Using the "shortcuts" that are used nowadays (emoticons, internet abbreviations, email formatting, memes, social media sharing [Pinterest, Facebook, Google Plus, "tweets" and the like) as a base, can we use these as predictive tools to say what comes next?

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    To the extent written language is a report of spoken language, there will be little change. To the extent written language merges with other phenomena, like computer programming, there could be vast changes. But we surely can't predict which ones will stick, nor when, nor where, nor why.
    – jlawler
    Jul 4, 2016 at 16:05
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    @jlawler your answer adds something the other one doesn't Jul 4, 2016 at 17:12

2 Answers 2


You might find this paper interesting: http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/series/volumes/16/introduction.html

From the abstract:

Empirical research on language is limited to the analysis of linguistic usage in the present and in the past. The unavailability of future linguistic performance makes it impossible to draw any certain conclusions regarding developments which lie ahead in time. It remains to be seen, however, whether all predictions are necessarily purely speculative: a growing body of empirical research on language variation and in statistics seems to suggest that linguistic change is subject to certain regularities, e.g. regarding the typical S-shaped growth curve observed in processes of change. At the same time, a multitude of disruptive factors may lead to unpredictable developments.

This introduction gives an overview of the current state of discussions on this issue and points out the main questions which are addressed in the various contributions.

So the answer would seem to be: maybe somewhat.


No, evolution is still unpredictable. In retrospect we can say, this and that phenomenon on social media was an early attestation of a language change, but we cannot predict from present day data which changes will prevail and which ones will vanish again after a short appearance.

  • do you mind if i edit your response to add jlawler's comment (above) to it? Jul 4, 2016 at 21:44
  • @JesseCohoon: I will let stand it separate because it is an independent thought. Maybe jlawler wants to make an answer out of his comment? Jul 5, 2016 at 9:19

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