The word 'Friend' Evolution

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Human language can be traced back to the beginning of human culture as a means of social, spiritual, economic, and political civilization. According to (Mugglestone), the mechanism of language and correspondence cannot be overestimated in terms of its true effect on the stability and operation of society, for without it, the operation and continuity of society will be in jeopardy. Multiple dialects of the same language, for example, English, have existed and are spoken in various parts of the world. Words have evolved over time, as have their interpretations and definitions, for as long as there have been speakers to speak them (Curzan). Human beings enjoy playing with words in creative ways leading to changing the language.

The word ‘friend' just like many other words in English has progressively taken up different meanings in different times of history. As different social, cultural influencers create variations in meaning, there are common trends and patterns that remain constant in the word friend. The name ‘friend’ originated from German word ‘Freund’ meaning to love. Old English adopted this name but was written as ‘friend’. Old English refers to the language of the Anglo-Saxons (up to about 1150), which was a highly inflected language that a had Germanic vocabulary, very different from modern English (Mitchell). The word was then changed in spellings in modern English as it is known today. It is a noun that has several meanings: one attached to another by affection or esteem; one that is not hostile; one that is of the same nation party or group. People of the same country and political party also strongly refer to each other as a friend in each particular setting; one that favors or promotes something, and a favored .this is according to Miriam Webster definition. When the word is capitalized, it refers to a member of a certain Christian sect that rejects war and sacraments. Synonyms to the word friend include words like s confidant, associate, compatriot, ally, and crony. Due to changes in social structures such as the growth of free communication through the internet the word has equally taken up new meaning as a verb that is reflective of the social and communication changes. Its meaning now extends to interactions of acquaintances and self-serving networks as opposed to deep relationships between people as seen in its meaning as a noun. The meaning of the word has also undergone several changes as a result of the culture of its speaks. As people interact, there is a likelihood that they acquire new cultures and the meaning changes to something linking people having close ties. Individuals finding themselves working at the same workplaces will become automatically ‘friends’ as they will be connected by the same work culture.

To establish a wider understanding of English development and create a contextual outline of the word being evaluated, it is also important to understand the systematic evolution of the English language per the theories of language and evolutionary linguistics. Ultimately, language is reflective of society and is directly proportional to the changes and dynamics within every societal unit (Mugglestone). Evolutionary linguistics is a science that studies the psychosocial and cultural factors that are incorporated in the origin of language and the subsequent development of languages on a universal scale. Hindered by the lack of empirical data, evolutionary linguistics is fundamentally supported by the reinvention of fields such as bio linguistics, neurolinguistics and anthropology. Even though ‘friend’ is widely accepted as a noun, the word can equally hold meaning as a verb. There exists evidence of the word friend being used as both a verb and a noun dating as early as the 14th century, with other evidence suggesting the even previous use of the word as a verb (PAZARCI).Friend as a verb with the growth of internet communication refers to adding someone to a list of contacts which are associated with a social networking website.

Notably, the definition of a friend in the context of modern day social media does not emphasize a deep knowledge of an individual or the family connections since the internet has become a global village you will find people being friends on the internet yet there is no individual connection between them as they just meet over the internet and they are just but strangers. It also refers to making someone an accomplice. A prominent citing is identified in Shakespeare literature where he says, “Disorder that hath spoiled us, friend us now!” (PAZARCI). For the centuries following the 12th centuries, there has been solid evidence of friend being used as a verb even as a great deal of the English language evolved during these intervals. In the early 13th century, the Guide for Anchoresses stated, “Make no purses, for to friend yourself in addition to that.” Evidently, even though the word is used to describe the process of making one an accomplice, the meaning of ‘friend’ remains qualitatively significant. As earlier seen Modern dictionaries have given varying definitions of the word ‘friend.' The Oxford dictionary defines a friend as a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection but which is exclusive of sexual or family relations. The above demonstrates the social and cultural shifts that have affected modern communication Modern socialization is constructed along the lines of trends and need to quantitatively increase one’s friends, especially on the internet. The growth of pop culture has also influenced cultural identities and the grouping of groups based on shared goals or beliefs. While these social modifications do provide their advantages of networking and identifying into a community, the alternate development of individualism has molded internet communications into self-centered and self-serving interactions. Often areas of social class stratification, circles of friends are established based on economic positioning and for their economic progress. It is for this reason that the word friend has lost its qualitative importance and gained more meaning as a verb in the context of social media communication. As the internet and modern communication is only expected to grow further and diversify, it is almost impossible to determine the evolution of the word ‘friend.' The new ‘friend' is a representation of social status, popularity, internet capacity and social power.

Followers will look up to certain people and express appreciation for the media or content they put out. It is through this process that the internet now launches many celebrities who can economically capitalize on this growth. Undeniably, while many initial internet celebrities hit the limelight almost by chance, more people now recognize the process of conscious branding and content creation. s the creation of friends now occurs behind a screen, it has become extremely easy and thus very casual and simplified (Mugglestone). To many, ‘friend' is a very vague word yet to many in this generation, this is the only meaning it holds. Also, according to, a friend is thus a person who offers assistance on a personal, communal or commercial setting and adds to the causes of these particular units. Modern technologies have widened the pool and reach for this kind of support through fast communication even in short-term friendships. In the media setting, the word friend has been used many times to appeal to populations to offer their assistance either financially or through human skills to devastating conditions that affect people. Often addressed as ‘dear friends' the use of the word in his light dissolves the differences and lack of direct relationships in a bid to inspire people towards a common often philanthropic goal.

The adjectives for a friend are ‘friendless’ and ‘friendly.' However, the word friendly has been recently identified as an adverb more than it is an adjective. Some common adjectives used to describe a friend include loyal, trustworthy, honest, weird or funny. According to (Curzan) The interaction between adjectives and the rod friend outline the different variations of the meanings and how these are used by different people. This is evidence of a human role in the evolution of meaning in the process of language expansion. Undoubtedly, human language is dependent on social structures and culture primarily in its evolution. While the origin of language remains highly controversial and debatable, these factors strengthen the role of human interaction in the process. Other scientists also closely link genetic structure to the process of language with comparisons being linked to the animal structure of communication.

In recent times, renewed interest in the process of evolutionary linguistics has led to more awareness of the process of verbal communication and transmission of meaning over time. Traditionally, word of mouth was a strong reference point that represented profound accuracy and trust. It was used in marketing or even in informal recommendations of venues or leisure activities. Now, transmission of verbal references occurs through online platforms. This has thus weakened the accuracy of online word of mouth with psychology indicating more inclination to lying where internet anonymity is possible. Since there is a lack of accountability and an increasing space for expression, the Internet’s biggest challenge is content overload and the difficulty people have in sorting and verifying heaps of information (Curzan) while the organization of content is becoming more refined and structured on the internet, scientists and researchers of language development face the challenge of keeping IP with the patterns and development of words. In this context, the word ‘friend’ has one of the most commonly identified for the flexibility with which it can potentially be used internet communication. As friends and friendships are centered on social themes, the word is also dominantly influenced by social and cultural factors more than it is by historical or political cultures. The word's meaning has remained fairly constant especially in previous centuries where I was used as a verb or noun. Only until the late 20th century has the word truly shifted in its meaning and use. Consequently, new adjectives to describe a friend have been incorporated to the new dynamic that has since simplified friends but complicated its actual value. Technological advancements and social or cultural transformations continue to be the most dominant influencing factor for the changes in the meaning of words such as ‘friend.'

Works Cited

Curzan, Anne. Fixing English: Prescriptivism and language history. Cambridge University Press.: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Mitchell, Bruce. Old English Syntax: Concord, the parts of speech, and the sentence. Oxford University Press, USA, 1985.

Mugglestone, Lynda, ed. The Oxford History of English. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2012.

PAZARCI, Hüseyin. ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY." Review of the Faculty of the Divinity University of Süleyman Demirel. 2015.

October 13, 2022

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