Up with Uptalking? How Language Marks Shifts in Generations

“Recognize that nothing is new, everything is changing, and that we need to wake up to a new form of English that we ourselves may not share but that can be as creative, as poetic and as imaginative as any that we’ve had in our lifetime.”

Seth Lerer, Distinguished Professor of Literature and Dean Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at UC San Diego

Why the need for this new perspective on the English language? As Seth Lerer argues, the English Language has constantly changed, is always changing, and understanding our individual and societal identities hinges on accepting and understanding these changes. Generational change has always been marked by language differences. The ability to recognize and understand these changes can impact how we relate to one another as well as understand the current social climate and values.

During his recent talk for the Osher UC San Diego Distinguished Lecture Series, Lerer looks at some of the ways in which the American version of the English language has changed, the challenges that those changes present, and the ways in which being an American is a linguistic as well as social phenomena. He shares examples from modern day slang, historical writings, and current usage of pronouns to highlight the way our language, though rooted in the past, leads us forward.

Watch Generational Change and the American Language with Seth Lerer.