Modern Literary Language

I’m really interested in the evolution of language across literary movements. We saw the quickening and shortening of literary language during the Beat era, and I’d argue the lengthening of language in the decades before. How are we writing today? What will become of modern-day style? I think it’s interesting to try and interpret our tendencies in real-time, rather than decades after they’ve happened. Have we even further shortened words/sentences as a result of the fast-paced digital moment we live in? Is there a niche that has done the opposite (ie. tend toward longer, flowing sentences as a kind of reaction to memes and media)? Have we changed the way we speak and write in some other fundamental way?

  • I think this is a really interesting topic to explore. Modern language is definitely interesting, though I think an article on this topic would definitely need to look at where we have come from. Explore (if only briefly) the history of the development of the English language, earlier eras/movements that saw the way we use language change dramatically. It is easier to see change retrospectively than while it is occurring, so having some previous point of reference would help with accessibility to this topic. Also - clearly defining what is considered 'modern' is crucial. – leersens 2 years ago
  • I would be interested from the stand point of modern scientific writing and if it does/doesn't translate well into the broader readership. Are there any alternatives? Ways and forms that will make it more readily applied and enacted into policy etc? How can scientists (and hopefully audiences as well) change to accomodate space within the dearth of literature available for consumption today? – DrBax 2 years ago
  • Here's a really cool analysis of inaugural addresses by US Presidents: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3534 The linguist who offers that analysis observes that, over the centuries of those speeches, average word lengths have decreased only slightly (by 5% or so) but average sentence lengths decreased by a whole lot (perhaps 50%). Similar changes in literature definitely didn't start with the Beats. The modernists, decades before the Beats, were already paring down language and rejecting what they saw as the literary excesses of the Victorian period, for example. – JamesBKelley 2 years ago

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