Voice-enabled devices are becoming ubiquitous and it won’t be long before conversation becomes a standard way of interacting with machines. In this keynote, I examine this forthcoming reality from the perspective of contact linguistics. In the realm of natural languages, when two linguistic communities interact with each other the result is always a mutual change in the characteristics of both languages. Under certain circumstances, a new language can even be generated. I explore what effects conversing with machines might have on both human and machine language use.
The presentation is divided into three sections:
In the first section, I argue that we should expect the continuous interaction of humans with speaking devices to reshape our own language. Hybridization of human and conversational practices is an inevitable part of our future and, since language shapes thought and influences perception, this interaction will also change the way we think and how we make sense of the external world.
I then go on to introduce a range of evidence that demonstrates that the process of language change is already happening. I do this by depicting a set of conversational practices already migrating from machine conversation into human conversation and analysing the behaviours of native users of conversational interfaces.
In the final section of the presentation, I introduce fundamental reasons for keeping human-to-machine conversational interactions within the boundaries of a distinctly human framework. I close by showing how the application to Conversational UX design of linguistic sub-disciplines such as Conversation Analysis, Sociolinguistics, and Sociopragmatics can help us implement more human interactive contexts in the future.