Sound and Language: Homogeneity and Decentalization

August 7, 2021

By Ahmed Bouzid (Founder & CEO at Witlingo)

Once in a while (but not often enough) someone says something that moves forward your underanding of something that is important to you.

This happened to me this past Tuesday [August 3, 2021] on Steve Keller‘s weekly Clubhouse room (Society of Sound Thinking) when Roger Sho Gehrmann, one of the participants and Executive Creative Director, Studio Resonate @ SXM Media, mentioned in passing his thoughts about how centralized media has created ‘one right way of sounding’ against which other variations (accents and dialects) are measured and often in comparsion to which devalued.

The insight that I took came in his next comment: that perhaps this pattern will be slowed down/reversed with the rapid decentarlization of the ways the new generation is consuming content — audio and otherwise — since they are getting exposed to far many more ways of sounding, with the “normal one” being just one more sound among many other sounds.

I think the observation has more than little merit to it. The Digitals (also know as Generation Z) actively seek out their content, compared to their parents, who grew up passively receiving.

With these thoughts bouncing in my head this morning, as I was writing an email via Google, the language checker griped a bit about a piece of language that I was stringing together and suggested an alternative:

I know the English is fine, and I know that Google knows the English is fine, so that it seems to me that the suggestion was more about perhaps my tone, or maybe because I am using a formulation that is not in vogue, or maybe (probably) it was simply because the pattern that I typed was used less often in emails by others than the pattern that it suggested, who knows….

Be that as it may, are we going to see the rise of “the right way of writing” (under the guise of promoting clarity, crispness, punch, etc.) with language checkers like this (and Grammerly)? Are we going to witness the smugglng of ideology, cultural ethos, mores, etc. via these language rectifiers? I know, this sort of standardization of the written word is not a new thing — but given the fact that we have these massive behemoths (Google, Facebook, Twitter) mediating our communications, are we witnessing a new kind of stealth centralization in a surrounding sea of fragmentation?

PS: I ignored Google’s suggestion and went ahead with my original formulation….

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