Capitalism is altering our language – and Raymond Williams saw it coming more than 50 years agoAccording to a report by researchers at the University of Los Angeles, English has become a peculiarly capitalist language – though they don’t quite put it like that. They used the somewhat blunt instrument of feeding 1.5m English-language books into Ngram Viewer, a tool that catalogues phrase usage, in order to count the frequency that words were used. The results proved that over the last 200 years there has been an ever-increasing use of particularly acquisitive words: “get”, “unique”, “individual”, “self”, “choose”; while over the same period “give” and “obliged” decreased. The pattern was only broken briefly in the relatively egalitarian years between the 40s and 70s. For the researchers, this shows the results of the English-speaking countries moving from “a predominantly rural, low-tech society to a predominantly urban, hi-tech society”.Some academics would rather not use the c-word. What has happened over those 200 years was the rise to dominance of capitalism, which obviously changed, and changes, our language and thinking. The researchers discovered a more algorithmic and superficial version of something that the Welsh socialist writer Raymond Williams had already tried to uncover …read more

Via: The Guardian | Books