Language Change

This is the minimum you should know, obviously there is a lot more you could look at and discuss but this should be a good start 

  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 17-06-15 15:21

Lexical change

  • Neologism- new words
  • Borrowing- words from other languages
  • Grammatical conversion- changing the word class
  • Back formulation- removing an affix
  • Clipping- new word created by shortening an existing one
  • Affixation- adding a prefix or suffix
  • Blend- combination of two words
  • Compound- combination of two seperate words
  • Acronym- pronounced as one word
  • Initialism- pronounced as initials 
  • Archaism- old fashioned lexis
  • Obsolete- lexis no longer used
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Semantic Change

  • Amelioration- when a word takes on a more positive meaning over time
  • Pejoration- when a word takes on a more negative meaning over time
  • Weakening- when a word loses the strength of its original meaning
  • Narrowing- when a word becomes more specific in its mening
  • Broadening- when a word keeps its original meaning but acquires others
  • Metaphor- words take on new meanings when used metaphorically 
  • Euphemism- was of describing something in a pleasant manner 
  • Idiom- an expression that can't be understood from the meaning of individual words
  • Cliche- an idiom that is regularly used 
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Orthographical change

  • Loss of the long 'S'- the 's' looked like an'f' due to printing 
  • Ampersand- &
  • Capitalisation- usually of all nouns in older texts
  • Doubling- usually of the consonant, for example 'Reall' or 'bee'
  • Extra final -e - the 'e' was used as an inflection, for example 'soe' or 'kinde'
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  • gradual process started in the Renaissance period
  • To standardise spelling prescriptive dicitonaries were introduced showing the 'correct' way to spell certain words for example Johnson's dictionary in 1755
  • To standardise graphology the printing press was introduced by Caxton in 1476 which set a standard of what printing should look like.
  • In the 16th century gramma books were developed to standardise grammar
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18th Century

Contextual factors to remember:

  • Hierarchal society
  • Society was keen to abide by laws
  • Power, education and class were represented by grammatical constructions
  • Many 'ordinary' people were deemed inferior 
  • Langauge was continually undergoing standardisation
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Jean Aitchinson

portrays view of prescriptivists;

the 'damp spoon' suggested by Max Miller argued that language change is lazy however Aitchinson argued that the only lazy language is alcohol.

Similarly the 'crumbling castle' view suggested by John Simpson believed that language was decaying but Aitchinson disagreed because you can't find a peak of language; it is subjective

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John Humphries

He believes that we should safeguard grammar and teach a basic level in schools.

If grammar is not taight we'll become illiterate 

He also believes we should communicate through standard english

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Jonathan Swift and Dr Johnson


Wrote a letter to the Earl of Oxford and argued that language was decaying, he wanted to return to Shakespearean language and protect and purify language


His dictionary was developed in 1755, it was the most popular dictionary and part of the process of standardisation. It inteded to fix pronunciation and language 

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