It is the year 2049. We now co-exist with artificial intelligence. Human-like agents are completely integrated into our society and work regular jobs. They act and look fully human. Like in the dystopian movie ‘Blade Runner’, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, or the more recent TV series ‘Westworld’, the humanoids can imitate all the outward signals we attribute to consciousness, and appear entirely self-aware. In other words, we have reached the point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization.
When facing unexpected world changes, as in the case of the current pandemic, the language system adapts to the challenge to express a new reality. How? By forging new words! Let’s find out how this happens by looking at one of the most powerful engines we can count on: our brain.
Dr. Limor Raviv was a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. She defended her thesis entitled ‘Language and society: How social pressures shape grammatical structure’ on May 7 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives immensely. But it also transformed the way we speak. It brought to life new creative words like covidiot (someone who is foolishly reckless with respect to avoiding contracting or spreading COVID-19) and quarancation (a home-based substitute to a vacation abroad). But there are also more subtle innovations, which are no less fascinating.