Language change


the printing press

was introduced in 1476 by William Caxton

emergence of an accepted standard english

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when a words meaning gets more diverse over time

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when a words meaning gets less specific over time

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Crumbling castle

language was once a monumental building which has been left to degrade

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people's desire to stabilise, fix and codify the language to become stronger and this resulted in grammar books and dictionaries.

standardisation has been driven by people for social and political reasons and supported by technological advances.

it is part of a prescriptivist stance.

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Norman Fairclough


- suggests that there are shifting boundaries between speech and written forms of language 

- he claims that there is an increasing prestige and staus for spoken language 

- these changes are also called informalisation and personalisation

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Jean Aitchinson


- crumbling castle view - language was perfect at one point but now is 'crumbling' and needs to be preserved.

- Damp spoon theory - language is changing due to the increase of laziness

- Infectious disease theory - catch changes from those around us, people pick up changes because they want to fit in with social groups.

- social prestige and changes in society

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David Crystal


- argued that texting improves our grammar and knowledge of how language differs, we learn when it is appropriate to use different forms.

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Howard Giles

accomodation theory

- centres on pragmatics and how speakers adjust their speech behaviours to accommodate pthers showing their need for approval

- convergence idea

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Lynne Truss (author of Eats, shoots and leaves)

-points out that punctuation is important because it affects meaning


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- believes texting is destroying our language

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prefixes - addition of bound morphemes to the beginning of a root word - mega

suffixes - addition of bound morphemes to the end of a root word - radical(ising)

conversion - a word changes its word class without adding a suffix - text (noun) & to text (verb)

compound - combining of separate words to create new words sometimes using a hyphen to link them - size zero, man flu, carbon footprint

blend - two words fusing to make a new one - smog (smoke and fog)

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Semantic change

- gradually over time as old meanings are forgotten

Amelioration - words takes on more positive meaning than previously, gains status - e.g. pretty and priest - sly --> attractive

Pejoration - words take on more negative meaning then previously, loses status - notorious e.g. learned --> deceitful

Weakening - words loses strength of original meaning - soon and presently e.g. immediately --> in a short while

Narrowing - word becomes more specific in meaning - wife e.g. any food --> animal flesh

Broadening - word keeps its original meaning but acquires others - place e.g. a broad street --> an area

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leaving out a phoneme in a group of phonemes clustered together e.g. hangin

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influence exercised by one sound upon the articulation of another so that the sounds become more like 'dohnchu'

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a new word produced by shortening an existing one --> Edit (editor) and fridge (refrigerator)

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a lexicalised word made up from the initial letters of a phrase (sounded as a word) e.g. RADAR

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