Email, or communication using Internet technology, is the third revolutionary step in mankind's ability to communicate, the first two being learning how to speak and how to write, a leading authority in linguistics claims.
Speaking today on Radio 4's Start the Week, Prof. David Crystal, argued that email is unique in that it is a "framing" language. People can take the third paragraph of an email, copy paste and respond to that. They can take the fifth paragraph and do the same. This flexibility (and presumably speed is an essential aspect) has not been possible before, he argues.
In another example, David points out that a chatroom enables 30 or so to communicate at the same time. This would be impossible in any previous form of communication (although people often try it in pubs). Not only that but the non-linearity (ie hyperlinks) of the Internet has and will continue to affect not only language but also art and design and culture in general.
Crystal has just written a book called Netspeak and is giving a talk on the subject at the Royal Society of Arts this Friday. He is the author The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language and numerous other books on language. ®