Does technology affect our language

Digital assistants: "We adapt our language to the machines"

TR: Mr. Lobin, is there a change in language for the first time that is triggered not by humans but by speaking machines?

Lobin: I guess. Machine language behavior differs from that of humans. If there are a lot of human-machine communication acts, language as such will also change.

How does communication with voice-controlled digital assistants influence our language skills?

We humans will probably adapt to the wizard. We will express ourselves in a way that we believe the system can best handle. This applies to pronunciation and sentence formation, for example.

So we express ourselves in a more machine-friendly way so that communication with the machine is successful?

There are a lot of misunderstandings with Siri and Alexa. To reduce this, we use linguistic forms that are as unambiguous as possible. We put it in such a way that context is not assumed. We wouldn't do that with thinking people.

Which parts of our linguistic diversity then suffer?

We adjust speaking speed, choice of words and sentence length. Dialects also have a hard time. Language assistants understand and produce clear standard language forms, not Bavarian or Swabian.

Does this style of language rub off on our communication with people?

We can distinguish styles, just think about conversations with children. However, if we increasingly address language assistants in the imperative in everyday life, for example, we tend to use it more often with people. A usual request, constructed as a question, becomes "Could you please turn on the light?" a "Turn on the light!"

If we are increasingly surrounded by talking machines, what does that do with people's self-image?

It gets another scratch. The philosopher Luciano Floridi once spoke of the fourth revolution. Copernicus drove us from the center of the universe, Darwin from the crown of creation, Freud from control of our minds. And now speaking and intelligent machines are putting our position as the only intelligent voice users into perspective. After all, we are quite well trained in this through the previous revolutions.


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