All language is mixed to one degree or another. Words are commonly borrowed and integrated from one language origin and find a home in another. This is referred to as lexical borrowing, and it works in a number of ways. Positive transfer is the introduction of terms, word usage, or patterns introduced into a language in a “correct” manner, such as technical terms—for example the english word, digital introduced into Japanese. Negative transfer is the sort of substitution in which a term (say, “dude”) is used to replace a natively correct word or terminology preexisting in the substratum, or native language. These are considered language pollution.

Smell? Smile? or a mashup of both? --Jimmie

Smell? Smile? or a mashup of both?


With the advent of globally connected technology, media, and social engineering, mutual lexical borrowing has reached a critical point at which language is being mashed up by the ever-increasing global society that transverses multiple cultures and environments. Code-switching is a linguistics term denoting the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety in a conversation, such as in Spanglish, Chinglish, or Engrish (Japlish).

When the balance of influence between two or more languages becomes pervasive, the structure, grammar, and vocabulary become fused and change the form or structure from simple code-switching into what is known as linguistic interference. The explosion of bilingualism and linguistic interference increasingly makes language classification difficult or impossible, since the resulting mixed-language construct can be impossible to classify into one specific language or the other.

We are also running out of words. The English language is grasping for descriptive terminology to embrace our rapidly changing culture. Neologisms (newly coined words) abound and proliferate; verbs, such as “twitter” are transformed into nouns and protologisms (neologisms that have not yet caught on), such as gleemail (the never-ending bombardment of inspiring emails forwarded by those “special” people in your life) or aaaaabuse (the act of unusual naming to get your entry placed at the beginning of a list) are seen everywhere you turn.

Cory Doctorow - A Delicious Portmanteau

Cory Doctorow - A Delicious Portmanteau

"Lee Harvey and the Oswalds" Fauxtography that brings a musical theme to the famous news still.

"Lee Harvey and the Oswalds" Fauxtography that brings a musical theme to the famous news still.

One of the fastest-growing sources of neologisms is born from a miximal ethos found in our shared notion of colloquial inventiveness or perhaps our overly permissive sense of personal entitlement: the portmanteau word. Portmanteaus are spawn from the practice of wordsmithery intended to combine (or mashup) two existing words into a new word that retains the descriptive essence of both sources—while blending them together into a transformational meaning. Brunch, spork, Spanglish, and fauxtography (the practice of creating counterfeit images intended to pose as reality) are all great examples of the miximal linguistic principles at work.

William S. Burroughs

--thierry ehrmann

While neologistic practices have been well established in the historical evolution of language, the proliferation of portmanteaus during the millennial decade is linguistic evidence of a shared cultural movement.

The Electronic Revolution, an essay by William S. Burroughs is where he originally expressed his theory of the unrecognized virus: “the word has not been recognized as a virus because it has achieved a state of stable symbiosis with the host.”

Interactive poetry at the William S. Burroughs exhibition --mihi_tr

Interactive poetry at the William S. Burroughs exhibition


He also examined the “cutup technique” (sometimes called fish-bowling), a haphazard literary technique in which a text is cut up at random and rearranged to create a new text born of a mix as much of chaos and fate as is curation and intent. Miximal linguistics? You bet!

The macro view of language—and literary works in general—is best summarized by the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida and his deconstructionism of text and its meaning. Derrida’s early forensic analysis ties together with the post-structuralism influence of French literary theorist Roland Barthes, who states, in his 1971 essay From Work to Text, that “text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations,” drawn from “innumerable centers of culture, rather than a sterilized, uninfluenced expression from a single individual’s experience.” The process for creative inventiveness is far more complicated than any single isolated thought, being more a distillation or interpretation born of mashing up the larger fabric of cultural consciousness. Nowhere is this more obvious than the evolution of trends, styles, schools, and movements that build on the conceptual and visual influences within miximal art.

AuthorRichard Cardran