Because Internet: Understanding how language is changing by Gretchen McCulloch

Because Internet is a look at how the internet is changing the language we speak. The book covers elements of internet language, how it relates to spoken and other written language, how it varies across internet use, and how emojis and memes fit in. McCulloch predominantly focuses on English, but also looks at some examples from other languages, or where elements from other languages have come into how English is written online.

It’s tempting to write this review more informally, more internet, than others, but I’ll hold back. The style of the book is accessible and informal, but still points towards other linguistic work for those looking for more of the linguistics and less of the general look at the internet and language. As someone who thinks and reads about use of the internet, the chapter about different demographics of internet use, centred around internet social spaces and where people first socialised on the internet, was particularly interesting, offering a number of things to reflect on around how people use different websites and apps for different purposes (it led me to casually refer to the sites I grew up with, like Myspace and Neopets, as ‘not shiny, but sparkly’, as in their functionality wasn’t slick like now, but people did overuse sparkles in web design).

The book is an introduction to a lot of ideas around changing language and how that is impacted by different elements of the internet, offering space to think and discuss these issues further rather than offering all the answers. Ultimately, the book celebrates language change, and the differences in how we talk online. There’s definitely some areas for reflection (the impact of different kinds of spell check and autocorrect is interesting, as is how the small reflection on video calling will change due to current circumstances) and Because Internet is an accessible look at internet language that doesn’t take itself too seriously.