I probably don’t need to tell you about ChatGPT, the AI that is impressing and scaring everyone with its natural language and extensive answers on everything.
The tweet that put it best into words for me was this one:
ChatGPT does NOT get facts right, but sounds as if it does, which is very dangerous. Its master, OpenAI, seems like a responsible company. Hopefully they will keep a good eye on this.
An acceptable essay on the future of English
Anyway, my focus is not the future of the world, it is the future of English, so I asked ChatGPT to write me about 500 words on that. It came up with a perfectly acceptable high school essay:
The English language has undergone many changes since it first originated in the Anglo-Saxon period. Over the centuries, it has been influenced by a multitude of other languages, including Latin, Old Norse, and French. Today, it is spoken by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, making it one of the most widely-spoken languages on the planet.
Looking to the future, it is likely that the English language will continue to evolve and change. As it is spoken in so many different countries, it is subject to a variety of influences from other languages. For example, English spoken in India is heavily influenced by Hindi, while English spoken in Singapore incorporates many words borrowed from Chinese and Malay.
One trend that is already underway is the increasing use of technology in communication. As more and more people communicate through text messages, social media, and other online platforms, the way we use language is changing. Words are often shortened and abbreviated, and new words are constantly being created to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancement.
Another factor that will shape the future of the English language is globalization. As more and more people travel and interact with one another, the language will continue to spread and evolve. This could result in a more standardized form of English, as people from different regions come into contact with one another and begin to use the same words and phrases.
At the same time, the rise of English as a global language has also led to concerns about the loss of diversity in other languages. As more people adopt English as a second language, there is a risk that some local languages could be lost or marginalized.
Overall, the future of the English language is difficult to predict with certainty. However, it is likely that it will continue to evolve and change as it has done in the past, incorporating new words and phrases from other languages and adapting to the changing needs of those who use it.
How will conversational AI impact the English language?
I also asked it how conversational AI like itself might impact on the English language. I agree wholeheartedly with the second paragraph, the first and third paragraph not so much.
It is possible that conversational AI could have an impact on the way English is spoken. As more and more people interact with AI assistants, they may begin to incorporate words and phrases used by these systems into their everyday language. For example, AI assistants often use words like “please” and “thank you” in their responses, and people may begin to use these words more frequently in their own communication as a result.
Additionally, the use of AI assistants could lead to a more standardized form of English, as these systems are typically programmed to use a specific form of the language. This could result in a reduction in regional variations and dialects, as people increasingly adopt the language used by AI systems.
However, it is also worth noting that the impact of conversational AI on the English language is likely to be relatively small compared to other factors, such as globalization and the increasing use of technology in communication. The English language has a long history of evolution and change, and will continue to adapt to the needs of those who use it.
Heddwen Newton is an English teacher and translator. She is fascinated by contemporary English and the way English changes. Her newsletter is English in Progress on Substack.
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Photo by Pavel Danilyuk, Pexels