Before you watch

John Hamilton McWhorter V /məkˈhwɔːrtər/ is an American linguist with a specialty in creole languages, sociolects, and Black English. He is currently associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University, where he also teaches American studies and music history. He has also authored books on race relations and African-American culture.

Vocabulary notes

pragmatic particles help to structure the communication process and to embed utterances into their communicative context. They do not contribute to the propositional content of an utterance, but indicate the beginning, continuation and end of a turn, they can indicate a coherence break in the ongoing discourse, or signal the background or foreground status of a stretch of discourse

artifice — a clever trick or stratagem; a crafty device or expedient

mundane — common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative

While you watch

While watching, pay attention to the following words and expressions in context. Use them in your answers to the questions below and discussion.

  • emergent complexity
  • controversy
  • unmonitored way
  • fingered speech
  • much loose/ much more telegraphic/ much less reflective
  • marker of accommodation/ marker of empathy/ new information marker
  • sophisticated
  • expansion of linguistic repertoire

After you watch

Answer the questions:

  1. Does texting mean the death of good writing skills?
  2. What are the distinguishing features of casual speech?

Discuss in pairs:

  1. How does casual speech differ from the language of electronic communications?
  2. Do you think language will deteriorate in the era of the Internet?