Microsyntax — Informally Canonizing Linguistic Evolution

A new website, Microsyntax.org is opening its doors. It aims at an attempt to offer some canonization to emergent linguistic conventions that grow organically on Twitter.

Stow Boyd, the site’s founder and only present author, writes:

… [W]e are launching a new non-profit, Microsyntax.org, with the purpose of investigating the various ways that individuals and tool vendors are trying to innovate around this sort of microsyntax, trying to define reference use cases that illuminate the ways they may be used or interpreted, and to create a forum where alternative approaches can be discussed and evaluated.

I’m fascinated by the mission of Boyd’s new site because it implicitly reframes language as action — an event unfolding — rather than a thing. It is a recognition of order emerging from chaos, aiming to assist its development and refinement.

This perspective stands in compelling contrast with arguments that are critical of the influence that technologies such as Twitter (or texting, instant messaging, and the rest) are affecting upon the modern written language; particularly as practiced by young people still in school, who are likely to apply these linguistic practices in “inappropriate” contexts, such as when writing papers.

The main reason language (both written and spoken) serves humankind’s communications needs so well is that we’re able to largely agree upon practices around how to encode and decode ideas, such that their meanings largely survive the transmission.

Notably, Boyd’s new website seeks to bridge the gap between emergent linguistic practices and informal canon.

[via TechCrunch]