Evolution of language

Published: November 1, 2022

Language is a constantly evolving thing.  New words enter the English language each year and other words fall out of use.  Recent years have seen such words as furlough, lockdown and vax become much more regularly used, words like humblebrag have been added to the dictionary and words considered to be archaic, such as aerodrome, have been removed. 

Our Personality system relies on language and how it is used.  Each of the questions in the personality questionnaire asks you to rate sets of words, in the order that they apply to you.  For example, “Driving, forceful, focussed” or “Popular, trusting, animated” – which is most like you?

However, different words mean different things to different people, and the meanings of words can change over time.  The word “awful” once meant worthy of awe, but has changed to mean now terrible. A more modern example is “cloud” which, as well as referring to the fluffy white or grey things in the sky, now means parts of the internet which allow us to access information from anywhere.  

The words in our personality questionnaire are also subject to these changes in language.  We work with a charity which supplies reports to young people, some of whom have had a difficult start in life.  Our questionnaire was developed for use in a business setting and not all the words were suitable for young people with less experience of the world of work. 


Our system has an inbuilt validation system which allows us to ensure each question working, so that the participant gets an accurate report.  When adapting the original questionnaire for use by the young people, we looked at each question and the words used, made changes and then tested the questionnaire to check that the results were as accurate. 

Words like “congenial” were replaced with “friendly” and “correct” was replaced with “plays by the rules” to make the questionnaire more young person friendly.  We tested this questionnaire thoroughly, examined the validation data, and the views of the young people receiving their reports. The results speak for themselves, when one young person thought that we must have spoken to their parents to write such an accurate report! 

As language changes over time, the words in our questionnaires must be reviewed to check that they are still giving the correct results.  As words fall out of favour and attitudes change, the word “caring” in our questionnaire becomes a more attractive option for people to pick, as society places more importance on being caring than it did in the past.  By the same token, the words “challenging” and “demanding” may seem to have more negative connotations than they once did.

As language evolves, so must our questionnaire.  Our validation system gives us the tools to monitor these changes and adapt to them, so our Personality Profiles are as accurate as possible. 

The validation system will be invaluable when translating the questionnaire into other languages.  The nuances of language mean a literal translation from English to any other language would be unlikely to yield accurate results, but that is a topic for another time.  However, if you are interested in partnering with us to translate the Personality system, please get in touch!