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Language
Change


English Language AS and A2 Revision Express, Pearson Longman, Harlow, Essex

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Origins of the English Language
The English language is divided up into different parts ­ Old English, Middle English, Early
Modern English and Late Modern English.

Old English (400 ­ 1150)
Middle English (1150 ­ 1450)
Early Modern English (1450 ­ 1700)
Late Modern English (1700 ­ present)

The Old…

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Early Modern English
Printing Press

William Caxton introduced the printing press in England in 1476, which proved to be a crucial
factor towards the acceptance of a `standard' English.

During the Middle English period there were five main dialects, but Caxton chose to use the
East Midland dialect for the…

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Late Modern English
Standardisation

The movement towards a stable, standardised language continued from the Early Modern
English period. Many of the rules on grammar that we follow nowadays came about through
several influential textbooks on grammar that were written in the 18th century.

Samuel Johnson compiled the first great dictionary…

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Lexical Change
Coinage ­ creating new words which are not derived in any way from other words. Very few
words enter the language like this, and almost all new words relate in some way to words that
already exist.

Borrowing ­ taking words from other languages and incorporating them into…

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Semantic change
Broadening or Generalisation ­ when a meaning of a word broadens, so that it retains its old
meaning but takes on an added meaning as well. For example ­ `holiday' originally meant `holy
day', a day of religious importance. Now it can mean any day when one does…

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Causes of language change
Ease of articulation

Some words change so that they are easier to say.

Omission ­ occurs when sounds disappear from words such as the ­b in `lamb' and `thumb'.
Also, another example of omission is the disappearance of the ­e which was used at the end…

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Attitudes to language change
Prescriptivists favour rules that identify `correct' language usage and they disapprove of uses
of language that break these rules.

Whilst descriptivists seek to describe, as accurately and objectively as possible, how language
is actually used. They do not label particular uses of language `correct' or `incorrect'.…

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