The Atlantic

The Coronavirus Generation Will Use Language Differently

Being out of school for half a year could change children’s relationship with formal expression.
Source: Sebastian Scheiner / AP

For language buffs, COVID-19 is a potential sci-fi plot. Think: Millions of families go inside for months—what will they all sound like when they come out? After all, Latin became French when Latin speakers in France spoke more with one another than with speakers elsewhere for long enough that the step-by-step morphings in France had created a different tongue from those in Spain or Italy. If people are shut up in their house for months on end, won’t each unit start developing its own slang, its own vowel colorings, and more?

As neat-o as it is to imagine, American English will not be separating into different dialects due to people interacting less. Spatial distance isn’t the only kind. Communications technology allows round-the-clock verbal interactions with legions of other people regardless. Many American adults are spending almost as much time Zooming and FaceTiming as we were interacting with people live before late March, and if and when we go out in the open, we will

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