Language Change and Langauge Diversity

  • Created by: 4BB13
  • Created on: 05-12-19 14:23

Jean Aitchison

Aitchison believes that people view langauge chnage as either progress, decay or inevitable.

Prescriptivists see the cause of decay as three things:

1) Infectious Disease - Catching bad habits which causes the English Language to change.

2) Damp Spoon - Language Change is caused by laziness.

3) Crumbling Castle - Language has changed from when it was once perfect.

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Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson attempted to 'fix' the English Language when writing 'Johnson's Dictionary'.

However he then realised that you can't 'secure it from corruption and decay' as language change is inevitable.

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Jonathon Swift

Jonathon Swift believed in AItchinson's metaphor of the 'crumbling castle' as he believed that the 'corruptions' of the English Language have decayed the language from when it was once perfect as Latin.

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David Crystal

David Crystal believes that language change is inevitable. He believes that 'Languages are always in a state of flux' and that 'Language would stand still only if society did'.

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Overt Prestige

Conformity to the publicly accepted standard. Status is publicly acknowledged.

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Covert Prestige

Conformity to a more subtle standard, recognised by a group, rather than the genral public.

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William Labov

Martha's Vineyard:

Covert Prestige - On an island a small group of fishermen began to exaggerate a tendency already existing in their speech. They wanted to make themselves appear as an independent social group. A number of islanders saw this group to have desirabole values, and subconsciously imitated the way its members talked. As more and more people came to speak the same way, the innovation gradually became the norm for those living on the island.

New York Department Store:

Overt Prestige - Labov studied how often the final or preconsonantal (r) - this is called 'rhoticity' - was sounded in words like 'guard', 'bare' and 'beer'. Sales assistants were asked to say 'Fourth Floor' a few times to be able to record the rhoticity used. The findings were that the sales assistants from Saks used it most, those from Klein's the least and those form Macy's showed the greatest upwards shift when they were asked to repeat. Therefore, the frequency use of the prestige variable 'rhoticity' varied with level of formality and social class.

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Functional Theory

M.A.K. Halliday - The idea that we create new words when we need to.

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Random Fluctuation Theory

Charles Hockett - The idea that new words come and go due to mistakes and errors.

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Multicultural London English (MLE).

Sociolect of English that emerged in the late twentieth century. There is evidence to suggest that MLE is spreadinf further afield from London. MLE is often referred to as 'Jafaican', conveying the idea of 'fake Jamaican'. It stems from the immigrants of Jamaican and Carribean descent.

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Code Switching and Joshua Fishman's Domain Theory

Domain is usually used to denote the (social) context of interaction. This concept was devised by Joshua Fishman. Speech Communities are made up of a number of domains which organise and define social life. Each domain has an addressee, setting and topic. These factors influence code choices within domains. They affect the way we use language.

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Queen's English Society

A membership organisation that exists to promote good English and the enjoyment of English. They aim 'To promote the maintenance, knowledge, understanding, development and appreciation of the English Language.'

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Michael Gove's National Curriculum

Michael Gove chnaged the National Curriculum and made SAT tests more difficult. He changed them to encourage young children to learn Standard English from a young age.

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Speak Good English Movement

This movement encourage Singaporeans to speak and write in Standard English and teach them grammatically correct English. They do this by for example, running workshops and programmes all year round to improve their spoken English

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Taboo Language

Words and phrases that are generally considered inappropriate in certain contexts. They are prohibited or restricted by social custom.

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An indirect, less offensive way of saying something that is considered unpleasant.

Euphemisms are used to avoid causing upset, causing offence, social awkwardness and avoud using taboo language.

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The public self image that every person tries to protect.

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Face-Threatening Acts

Acts in which in some way threaten the 'face' of another person. Whether the act is actually a threat depends on the way that the listener preceives the act.

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How different aspects of our language come together to help us get our meaning across and represent ourselves in the way that we want to. Prgamtic changes helps us to respond appropriately in the context, to maintain good relationships and to make sure that we don't cause offence.

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Politeness Theory

How we use pragmatics to redress (repair or eliminate) the potential damage of a face-threatenig act.

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An idea put forward by Jonathon Culpeper which looks at different features designed to deliberately increase offensiveness and to maximise the impact of a face-threatening act.

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Closed Network

When a persons personal contacts all know each other.

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Open Network

An individual whose contacts tend not to know each other.

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Number of connections in a social network.

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When individuals are linked in several ways, like family and job, then the network ties are said to be multiplex.

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Giles - Matched Guise Technique

A sociolinguistic experimental technique used to determine the views and feelings of people towards a certain dialect or accent.

Findings - Received Pronunciation (RP) was given the highest ranking and Regional urban accents was given the lowest ranking. RP is said to be the most impressive.

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The language used by a particular social group.

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A personal speech style, based on factors from your background.

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Elaborated Code - Used in relatively formal, educated situations, permitting people to be reasonably creative in their expression and use a range of linguistic alternatives.

Restricted Code - Used in relatively informal situations, stressing the speaker's membership of a group, relying on context for its meaningfulness, and lacking stylistic range. Characterised by pronouns, tag questions and the use of gestures and intonation to convey meaning.

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Howard Giles - Accommodation Theory

Giles argues that 'when people interact they adjust their speech, their vocal patterns and their gestures, to accommodate others.'

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Where communicators make changes and adaptations to their speech habits that resemble those of the people they are talking to.

Types of Convergence:

  • Upwards Convergence - Where a regional speaker becomes RP to show they like the RP speaker.
  • Downwards Convergence - Where an RP speaker becomes more regional to show they like the RP speaker.
  • Mutual Convergence - Where both speakers move towards each other's style to show they like each other.
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Swales Discourse Community

1) A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals. 

2) A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among their members. 

3) A discourse community uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.

4) A discourse community utilises and possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims. 

5) A discourse community has acquired some specific lexis.

6) A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise. 

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What has influenced the English Language?

  • Irish (19th Century) - Immigration of 2.5 million people due to failue of potato crops. Their language can be seen in contemporary media and language. Shaped by political influence.
  • African (16th Century) - Food words come about due to the Trans-Atlantic Slave. Slave ships carried crops as food for enslaved Africans. A lot of musical words also come about through African influence.
  • Indian (1751-1858, 18th -19th Century) - Colonisation by england, which causes languages to mix. English is now the 2nd language of India. 453,000 emigrants moved to the US. 
  • Russian Baltic (19th Century) - Jewish Immigrants went to America as they earned more money in America. They took their own culture over.
  • French - (1547, 16th Century) - 2 religions. Huguenot came over as refugees.
  • Caribbean (1988, 20th Century) - World War One. Claude McKay is 1st black journalist. 
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Creoles and Pidgins


  • Lots of repetition to show the fast pace. 
  • Gender hard to pronounce fast due to Britain having a divide. 
  • Enough English terms for us to understand it.


  • Don't have a range of lexical items.
  • Not enough English for us to understand. 
  • Verb order isn't good.


  • Fast pace.
  • Present Tense
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  • Plosives - Block the air and lets it out forcefully. Use of lips, front of tongue and back of tongue. 
  • Fricatives - Partially blocking the air and lets air out in a steady stream. Use of teeth, back of bridge of mouth and tongue.
  • Affricatives - Plosive than fricative. Use of the tongue and teeth.
  • Approximants - Partially blocking air, letting some air out. Constant stream of air. Use of lips and the rooth of the mouth.
  • Laterals (Liquids) - Air flow is down the side of the tongue. Use of tongue behind teeth and tongue on bottom of mouth. 
  • Nasals - the air comes out of your nose instead of mouth as mouth is blocked. Use of lips and tongue. 
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Phonemes - Smallest unit of sound.

Graphemes - The letters used to represent the sound.

Digraph - The way to represent a sound using 2 letters.

Trigraph - The way to represent a sound using 3 letters. 

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Prescriptivist View

Descriptivist View

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