Language in the age of contemporary media

“The purpose of language is communication in much the same sense that the purpose of heart is to pump blood”. (Searle, 10)  Language is after all an individual and social construct we use in our daily lives to convey information and to communicate with one another. Without the formation of language we could not have traditional media like television, radio or cinema. So it is important to know that, like any other construct used in daily life, language needs to follow a set of rules in order to be properly used: phonology, morphology, lexicon, syntax and semantics are part of such an elaborate process that we have been able to master through practice and repetition. (Irvine, 4)

Human beings are born with genetically encoded information that allows them to learn their native language with a surprising ease. They gather external information transmitted by the people they see in the daily life and they eventually transform raw “baby talk” into a comprehensible and intricate conversational structure by learning the rules and parameters of the language in school. And that’s how we eventually start writing letters, essays, even stories or more elaborate pieces of information that can be portrayed within traditional media.

Languages around the world share certain similarities because in most of the cases they share an historical or geographical background. However, it is important to know that each of them has their own set of rules and structures. And that’s why people with linguistics aptitudes can become bilingual or even multilingual in some cases.

Like Japanese, Spanish or English; the different communication tools used in media have their own set of rules. That’s why we have to use transform and adapt our ideas to build messages that can have better reach to our audience but make the best use of language. Language is a tool we can exploit greatly for creative purposes “The infinite use of finite media distinguishes the human brain from virtually all the artificial languages we commonly come across”. (Pinker, 87)

That’s why I think the most successful approaches of language use come from advertising. Tag lines are smart, short and yet able to transmit powerful ideas that can be assimilated and remembered throughout the years. This comes as a proof the communicators share an unspoken responsibility to learn and make the most use of language; they should commit to really dig into the study of linguistics.  Should the study of language for communication professionals should be deeper and more serious?

After all,  “the glue that holds the elements together into a speech act is the semantic intentions of the speaker”. (Searle, 17)


We are seeing a revolutionary use of language in current media. The exposure that people come across nowadays make them immune to the messages we are trying to get across, messages are becoming shorter and somehow more powerful with the appearance of things like twitter and the use of hashtags.


This context has made an impact in media. We are able to see that the language used in media has been transformed by the appearance of Social media and electronic devices.  We have access to more information so we have to make it shorter and somehow more attractive to the end-user, people should be attracted to the idea of reading the news from our media outlet than from the competition. These are some of the game changers for traditional media that has affected newspapers, magazines or even newscasts.

Full and developed messages are becoming overrun by the appearance of shorter yet seemingly more powerful ideas. This has affected the media we consume and our lifestyle in an almost symbiotic way. In the world where language is limited by 140 characters we have to be precise and consistent with the ideas we are trying to send across.


Martin Irvine, “Linguistics: Key Concepts” (Comparing structuralist and Chomsky’s linguistic concepts)

John Searle, “Chomsky’s Revolution in Linguistics,” The New York Review of Books, June 29, 1972.

Steven Pinker, “How Language Works.” Excerpt from: Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York, NY: William Morrow & Company, 1994: 83-123.