“Tu” you on Twitter

Very few countries in the world spend as much time and effort as France does at preserving the purity of their language.  However, as this article from the BBC shows, Twitter and other social media may be breaking down the norm of the polite “vous” and replacing it with “tu.”  It’s all the fault of that “cyber-utopian California-style libertarian discourse” (isn’t that a great quote?) so common in social networking media.

One of the most interesting things I found about this article was the insert box comparing “In other languages.”  So, while French, German, English, Chinese and Farsi seem to be getting more informal (hence the vous breakdown in French),  Russian keeps it’s standard formality and Japanese becomes even more formal than face-to-face contact.  I wonder if this has anything to do with how hierarchical internet use is in these countries?  Perhaps the more it is used by the masses (and/or political dissidents) rather than the elite, the more hierarchical language structures begin to break down?


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