You may recall the classic scene in the film “My Fair Lady,” in which Professor Higgins, phonetics expert, instructs the lovely Audrey Hepburn in the proper pronunciation of the words, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
Well, in just a few short decades — “this” may not be so necessary in our English language.
“We can expect to see significant changes between now and the middle of the century,” said one expert.
Linguists predict that by 2066, the “th” sound will completely vanish from our English language. That’s due to the influx of so many foreigners who struggle to pronounce the interdental consonant, as it’s called — which is created by pushing the tongue against the upper teeth.
Look at London, for starters. Currently traditional Estuary English, prevalent in the South East of the U.K. — a hybrid of Cockney and received pronunciation (RP) — is being heavily influenced by Caribbean, West African, and Asian communities, which are replacing it with Multicultural London English (MLE). Within 50 years, according to experts at the University of York, MLE will “spread from its London roots and throughout the U.K.”
Dr. Dominic Watt, a sociolinguistic expert at the University of York, said, “Given the status of London as the linguistically most influential city in the English-speaking world, we can expect to see significant changes between now and the middle of the century,” as The Telegraph reported.
Not only is the impact of immigration significantly altering the language, making it more difficult to identify ethnicity — but as social platforms continue to simplify how we communicate, our dialects are expected to follow suit. Communication is more lax today because of social media. This, too, is having an impact.
How This Will Happen, Exactly
“The Sounds of the Future” report, from the University of York, is based on analyses of recordings from the last 50 years as well as social media language use.
The “th” sound — also called the voiced dental nonsibliant fricative (just in case you were wondering) — is likely to be replaced an “f,” “d,” or “v” — meaning “mother” will be pronounced “muvver” and “thick” will be voiced as “fick.”
1.) “Th” will vanish. The dental consonants will be replaced by “d,” meaning “this” or “that” will become “dis” or “dat.”
2.) “Th” fronting will be lost. Words that begin with the “th” sound will be lost, so “thin” will become “fin.”
3.) Emojis — such as the happy face, sad face, and wink — will become part of our language and facial expressions.
4.) The glottal stop pronunciation of “t,” that brief catch in the throat when the tongue tip closes against the roof of the mouth, will be the default pronunciation.
Right now, all of this sounds a bit hard to believe — but multiculturalism has its long-tail effects.
Languages “change when they come into contact with one another,” Watts told The Telegraph. “English has borrowed thousands of words from other languages: mainly French, Latin and Greek, but there are ‘loan words’ from dozens of other languages in the mix.”