Nature is ‘becoming less important’ because words such as ‘web’ and ‘stream’ have been hijacked by the technology world, researchers claim.
Such is the computer’s grip on nature’s vocabulary that now the use of the word ‘tweet’ only refers to birdsong in 1 per cent of cases – and the rest to Twitter.
A study by Leeds University found in a sample of conversations from the 1990s that every use of the word ‘stream’ related to a small river.
This compared with just 36 per cent of uses relating to water in sample conversations from the past ten years – with the rest referring to the action of ‘streaming’ or downloading videos or audio online.
The use of the word ‘tweet’ only refers to birdsong in 1 per cent of cases – and the rest to Twitter, researchers have found (file picture)
And around 40 per cent of children now associate the word ‘web’ with the internet rather than spiders
Dr Robbie Love, linguistics fellow, said: ‘Language represents what’s important to a culture or society.
‘Nature language being replaced… suggests nature potentially becoming less important.’
A slew of other nature words have also decreased in relative frequency among young people between the 1990s and 2010s according to Dr Love’s analysis.
These include lawn, twig, blackbird, picnic, fishing, paddle, sand, welly, desert, paw, snow, grass, jungle, sky, path, bridge, bush, land, hill, fish, pond, mountain, soil, branch, stick, park, ground, wheel, tree, stream, rock, bird, road, garden, and shell.
Around 40 per cent of children now associate the word ‘web’ with the internet, also known as the ‘world wide web’, rather than spiders, although for some children it happens at age six.
Parents and grandparents recognised this trend too, with 50 per cent believing their children/grandchildren would see ‘web’ as a technology word.
In a bid to get children to play more outdoors, the National Trust is promoting a list of 50 free and easy ideas to help children connect with nature.
Other nature words including picnic, fishing, paddle, sand, road, garden, and shell have also decreased in frequency among young people between the 1990s and 2010s (file picture)
Ideas include ‘cloud watching’ and watching a sunset or sunrise. 50 free and easy ideas to help kids connect with nature aimed at children aged around 11.
The charity’s Andy Beer, Regional Director for the Midlands said: ‘As a nation we are losing our connection with nature. This is really worrying for us as a conservation charity.
‘One of the key reasons we were formed was to protect and look after green spaces and wildlife for the benefit of the nation.
If today’s children aren’t connected to nature, then who is going to stand up for our countryside and wildlife in the future?”
Last year the compilers of the Oxford Junior Dictionary faced public outrage after they removed ‘natural’ words such as ‘acorn’ and ‘cygnet’ with modern terms such as ‘blog’ and ‘chatroom’.
More than 175,000 signed an online petition to have them reinstated.