How would I structure an A2 language change answer in the exam?

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I am finding Language Change at A2 so difficult and i just can't get my head around how to structure the answer.

I would greatly appreciate any tips and ideads about what I need to include in my essay answer.

Thank you!

Posted Wed 27th February, 2013 @ 17:56 by Alice

9 Answers

  • 4 votes

My English teacher told my class to do an essay on:
How does language change? - all the history stuff, viking/normas, first dictionnary, standardisation, etc.
Why does language change? - wave and s-curve, cultural transmission etc.
And the attitudes towards language change? - prescriptivist and descriptivist and all the theories and what they said.
This should cover the basics and if you memorise it you can almost use some of the information in the exam!
Hope this help

Answered Sat 2nd March, 2013 @ 17:21 by Georgia
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Thank you very much. That has helped a lot! :)

Answered Tue 5th March, 2013 @ 10:04 by Alice
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No problem! Mines getting marked by my teacher and graded now, so when its a good standard I can send you a copy, if you like?

Answered Thu 7th March, 2013 @ 18:52 by Georgia
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the advice you gave was great for the language change answer! please could you possibly send me a copy of yours as i am having trouble too! thanks 

Answered Sun 7th April, 2013 @ 10:39 by Alice
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Hey Georgia! Would you be able to send me a copy please, and if possible, the teachers notes/comments? My main hurdle with this course is that we know how to do something, but applying it the right way. i.e. the essay structure; is it enough for me to be able to get all the info down in concise, P.E.E Paragraphs to score good marks :)

Answered Fri 12th April, 2013 @ 17:21 by Charlie Russell
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I would also appreciate a copy if that's OK? I'm really struggling with it at the moment -.-

Answered Mon 15th April, 2013 @ 18:02 by Matt
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I don't know if this is the sort of answer you were looking for. But we've been advised by our child language acquisition teacher to start with analysis at a word level (orthography/spelling) and then a sentence level (which is more grammar) and then to come back and look at the text as a whole which should tie together any social contexts. Although she's suggested this for the other half of the paper, I find it helps to have a similar structure in mind for the language change.

Hope that's of some help

Answered Sun 21st April, 2013 @ 21:53 by Hannah
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I've only just seen everyones comments! I would send everyone a copy of the comments but I havent got it back yet even thoughts its been atleast a month now since I handed it in -_-.
But I can send what I have already done, and if i get it back soon I will send you the comments!

Answered Mon 22nd April, 2013 @ 17:56 by Georgia
  • 0 votes

I was going to send you all messages but it wont let me send it privately to you all as im not a subscriber! So I will just paste it on here!

 How does language change; why does language change; what are the attitudes towards language change?

How does language change?
                Language changes due to many factors, such as historical events, and social factors. There are many influences such as language from Old and Middle English.  English came from the combination of Germanic languages belonging to the Angles, Saxons and the Jutes in 449AD when they first invaded Britain. People who lived in Britain spoke Celtic languages. All the new settlers in England became known as Engles, or now a day’s Anglo-Saxon, and their language was known as Englisc. The Vikings invasion of Britain in 789AC also had a significant influence on English with their language Old Norse when they settled in the North and East of England.  Place names that end in –by (like Whitby) and –thorpe (Mablethorpe) show the influence of Old Norse. Both suffixes meant settlement. After the Normans conquered England in 1066, French became the language of the aristocracy, law and government. For example parliament, treasurer and soldier all come from the French language.
                  In 1476, William Caxton established the first printing press in Westminster, England. This helped standardise English, because they were producing identical texts which meant everyone was reading the same words in the same way. However this was difficult for Caxton because there were no rules for spellings, and he had to choose an appropriate punctuation system also. Caxton chose to use the East Midland dialect (London, Oxford, Cambridge) for texts he printed, as it was the political and commercial hub of the country and the foremost centres of learning. The East Midland dialect was later confirmed the most prestigious and ‘correct’ form of English.
                The Renaissance was a cultural movement that started in 1476 till 1650, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. In England, the Elizabethan era marked the beginning of the English Renaissance with the work of writers such as William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Shakespeare is responsible of making up words such as ‘bedroom’, ‘gossip’ and ‘swagger’.
                Tyndale was the first person to translate the bible in 1525 into English, where at the time it was illegal and he was eventually executed. However King James abolished the death penalty and released an official English publication to be read throughout the country in 1611. The King James bible is still used today, and many expression are used in contemporary Britain, including idioms like, ‘A fly in the ointment’, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’, and ‘A leopard cannot change its spots’. Abraham Lincoln said ‘the bible is the best book given to man’.
                Standardisation began in 1750, where the first English dictionary written by Samuel Johnson, ‘A dictionary of the English Language’ (1755) was published and contained about 40,000 words. This made an important contribution to the standardisation of words meanings and spellings.
                Many grammarian writers shaped the formation of Standard English. For example Robert Lowth, an 18th century grammarian suggested that the practice of using a preposition that was unattached to an object was a colloquialism. For example, ‘The chair was sat on’. This was contributed as a ‘rule’ which many prescriptivist now follow.

Why does language change?
 Linguistic Determinism and Reflectionism.

In the 20th century, Sapir and Whorf put forward the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (SWH), and explained the concept of linguistic determinism; which means that language determines or shapes our thoughts. The main principle of SWH is that language precedes thought and controls it – known as the ‘strong version’. Human thought is only possible through language; this means, we only think things which we have the language to articulate.
                The ‘strong version’ has been criticised as to rigid, and seems to negate the possibility of language change at all as it would be impossible to coin or invent news words and language forms that we seem emerging all the time in English.
                The ‘weak version’ of the SWH theory has been put forward the concept of linguistic Reflectionism; this means that language reflects our thoughts.  
                Some linguists have tackled the problem of the relationship between language and thought from the other way around: that language is shaped by our thoughts and is simply a reflection of the way that we are and think. This Reflectionist argument has been criticised for dismissing the value of trying to shape or change language: for example, to prevent the use of racist language, as it supposes that the racism is a reflection of the way people think and will only re-emerge in the newly changed forms.

Lexical Gaps.
This theory suggests that there is a logical reason for words to be created to 'fill a gap', and can be viewed as a way of viewing possible directions that language change may take in the future.  'Gaps' referred to here are words or phrases that are currently not occupied in English language usage , but fit the current patterns within the language.

Random Fluctuation and Cultural Transmission.
Linguist Charles Hockett (1958) put forward this theory which covers how language changed not through progress or decay, as discussed by Jean Aitchison,  but instead through random error or events through time. In this model, language changes owing to its instability.
                The theory of random fluctuation sees the changes that occur in language as responses to the ever- changing context of language use and its users.  These contextual factors themselves may well be understood as more of less random occurrences, and the linguistic changes that follow (coined words, or idiom), although fitting, are random successes from a range of plausible responses, for example, another language and group of users may well deal effectively with a similar change in a different way.
                An example would be the word ‘book’ as a synonym for ‘cool’, due to the fact that typing in ‘C O O L’ in the predictive text feature of some mobile phones brought the word ‘book’ up  instead as the first option – pretty random way of acquiring a new a new word.

Substratum Theory.
This theory focuses on the influence of different forms of language that come into contact with English through speakers of other languages or English dialects. 'Like' is an example of this as it has made its way into British English through American television and films and is now common in British dialects, especially amongst the younger generations who are possibly more heavily influenced by these media forms.
                There is also the idea that immigration has this effect on English, with non-native speakers bringing words from their native tongue into their adopted one, this can also be reversed as conquerors have brought new words into language, specifically with English, the Norman invasion of 1066, brought French into Middle English and was adopted by the ruling classes and adapted into the higher social classes and linked to education and religion.  However, it can also be said that the British had this effect during the time of the British Empire and so English words were adopted into Hindi, but also words such as 'juggernaut' were 'borrowed' into English.
                It is also notable that 2nd generation speakers of these new adaptations that will find their way into the foundations of the language may have a tendency to over pronounce certain sounds.  This could be an example of 'youth culture' finding its own identity away from that of their parents.  Evidence of this was cited in Jean Aitchison's Language Change Progress or Decay, with 2nd generation Jewish and Italian immigrants, hyper correcting their language, which went on to form the distinctive New York accent.  This information is based on William Labov's study of Jewish communities in New York.

Functional Theory.
The central concept of functional theory can be identified in many other, more specific theoretical models put forward by linguists: that is, that language changes according to the needs of its users. Evidence of this is most readily seen in the way that the English Lexicon digests words, on what seems like a daily basis.
                Words become obsolete and so drop out of usage and, in time, of existence. The changing worlds of technology and industry often fuel the need for new words.  Words fall out of usage, such as 'vinyl' for records and are replaced by initialisms such as M.P.3.
                Colloquial usage, and the slang of individual groups, also coins and discards words at a rapid rate, to fulfil the need for identity and expression among users – and it can even recycle itself, with words that have fallen out of use being brought back into circulation.
S-curve and Wave Model.
In the 20th century, linguists increasingly began to view language change as a highly organic process. That is to say that linguists became much clearer about the fact that, when a particular variation of the language occurred, for example the great vowel shift.

S-curve Model.
S-curve is the model based on the idea that language change can occur at a slow pace creating the initial curve of the 'S' and then increases speed as it becomes more common and accepted in the language.  This can then slow down again once it has fully integrated in the language and is widely used.  This model is based on Chen (1968/1972)  who asserted that a language change would be picked up a certain rate by users before spreading into wider language usage, then slowing, this change can be measured on a chart and will produce a curve resembling the letter 'S'.

Wave Model.
Other linguists developed this concept of the way in which a change is adopted by the users of a language. Bailey (1973) suggested a model that geographical distance can have an effect on language change.  For example, just as someone close to the epicentre of an earthquake will feel the tremors, a person or group close to the epicentre of a language change will pick it up, whereas a person or group further away from the centre of the change is less likely to adopt it.  i.e. a word adapted or adopted by multicultural youths in London is unlikely to affect white middle class speakers in Edinburgh, as they are removed from the epicentre both culturally and socially.

What are the attitudes towards language change?
                There are many attitudes towards language change. For example, Descriptivism are the people that believe we should try and understand the different varieties of a language and not    intervene with them. Their argument is why does it matter what style of language we use.
                Descriptivist seeks to understand the varieties of language rather than interfere with them.  Their argument is why does it matter what style of language we use. If people understand one another, then that sufficient. They believe we should just accept our language changes, and embrace this new evolution. They consider ‘change is good’.
                One renowned Descriptivist is Jean Aitchison, a professor of Language and Communication at the University of Oxford. In her book ‘Progress or Decay (1991)’, she expresses and interprets other people’s views on language change. She discusses three theories on language change and why it happens. The first theory Aitchison cites is the ‘Damp spoon syndrome’ image which comes from a British news reporter who states that language change is due to laziness. Aitchison believes that there is no such thing as ‘lazy speech’ unless it is drunken speech. The term is coined from the 'laziness’ Aitchison felt when a damp spoon was put back into a sugar bowl or butter spread with the bread- knife. The ‘Infectious disease assumption’;  expressed by writer Douglas Bush, states that language change is an infection that we ‘catch’, just the same way that germs spread disease.  However Aitchison believes we don’t ‘catch’ language change, we choose to use it like fashion, and suggests language is a ‘linguistic wardrobe’. Lastly, the ‘Crumbling castle view’ treats English as a beautiful, pristine, ornate building that must be preserved as implied by writer John Simon. Any change would amount to letting the castle fall to ruin. Aitchison suggests that language is not ‘crumbling’ but is maintaining itself; language has to have achieved some peak of perfection, like a vintage wine. However no date for this has been suggested.   
                Linguist, academic and author, David Crystal is also a Descriptivist. Having written over 120 books he comments on language saying it’s like 'swimming against the tide'. He refers to language change as the movement of the sea and says that being Prescriptivists and going against what is seen as 'normal' and acceptable, which in this case language change is; because it is too strong and you will never win.  He also says ‘Language change is normal and unstoppable, reflecting the normal and unstoppable processes of social change’.

                The Prescriptivism view seeks to impose particular rules for language use in order to maintain a specific standard form, and in some cases, to restrict or prevent the use of non-standard forms of language. It states that if people can use any language forms, then eventually no one will be able to understand each other, no basic rules of language would continue.
                Lynne Truss, an English writer and journalist, author of ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves (2003)’, takes the Prescriptivists approach and is more swayed towards linguistic purism. She suggests that ‘everywhere one looks, there are signs of ignorance and indifference’. She clearly has a different approach to Descriptivist’s and sees our use of English as regressing into laziness.
                One other supporter of this theory is John Humphrys, journalist and author of ‘Lost for Words (2004)’. In the book he slates the misuse of the English language and expresses his thoughts on the decline of Standard English. He compared the misuse of an apostrophe to ‘vandalism’, and states, “Unless you get into the habit of being precise, you will be open to misunderstanding.”
Prescriptivism would believe this is so. However we must accept that most of our words originate from many other languages; in addition the English language is used in other cultures also. For example, ‘graffiti’ is the plural for ‘graffito’ coming from the Italian word ‘graffiato’. No one says ‘graffito’, but ‘graffiti’ even not said in the plural; it is accepted?

Answered Mon 22nd April, 2013 @ 18:01 by Georgia