A funny thing happened to several languages on their way to extinction — they were saved, pulled back from the brink by teenagers and the Internet, of all things.
Samuel Herrera, who runs the linguistics laboratory at the Institute of Anthropological Research in Mexico City, found young people in southern Chile producing hip-hop videos and posting them on YouTube using Huilliche, a language on the brink of extinction.
Herrera also discovered teens in the Phillippines and Mexico who think it’s “cool” to send text messages in regional endangered languages like Kapampangan and Huave.
Almost as soon as text messaging exploded on the world stage as a means to reach anyone, anywhere, and anytime, young people began to find a way to scale it back, make it more exclusive and develop their own code or doublespeak to use on the widely-used devices.
Shorthand and abbreviations became a popular way to keep the “inside joke” of LOL, or “laughing out loud,” and brb, or “be right back,” within the circle. In time, though, these catchphrases reached a broader audience, losing their cache and exclusivity. As soon as its use became widespread and commercial, the code was no longer “cool.”