language change theorists

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david crystal

clear prescriptivist , thinks it is good that language changes to accomodate new things and technologies, this is also the main driver behind language change.

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four metaphors

damp spoon- laziness causes language to change.

infectious disease- people changing language catches on like a disease and many people begin to use it

crumbling castle-  when old castles fall and crumble its like language decaying, however new buildings such as the shard are equally as beautiful

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labov- social bonding and marthas vineyard

Labov - 'Martha's Vineyard Research': we subconsciously change our language to identify ourselves with one group rather than another

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Donald Mackinnon '96 - categorises the attitudes p

  •  incorrect or correct
  • pleasant or ugly
  • socially acceptable or socially unacceptable
  • morally acceptable or morally unacceptable (political correctness: conscious process, never clear cut and very context dependant, normally a negative thing)
  • appropriate in context or inappropriate
  • useful or useless
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Suzanne Romaine '98

  • Internal: formation of new words and the influence of dictionaries etc. Looks at what happens inside the language
  • External: the changing social contexts, language as an ongoing process
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random fluctuation theory

  • In this model, language changes owing to its instability
  • Rather than progress or decay, this theory sees the changes in language as responses to the ever-changing context of language use and its users
  • These contextual factors may be understood as more or less random
  • E.g. years of unseasonably warm weather
  • The linguistic changes that follow, though fitting, are random
  • For a while, the word book became used as a synonym for the word cool, since 'cool' would be automatically changed to 'book' in predictive text
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substratum theory

  • This theory focuses on the different forms of language that come into contact with English through foreign-language or dialect speakers
  • These speakers will have an impact on all features of language over time, such as words, meanings, structures, written forms and sound
  • E.g. the influence of the various forces that invaded Britain throughout the Old English period
  • Or when words were borrowed from foreign countries in the Later Modern English period, when it became invader during colonial expansion
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morphological gap

morphological gap is the absence of a word that could exist given the morphological rules of a language, including its affixes

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semantic gap

A gap in semantics occurs when a particular meaning distinction visible elsewhere in the lexicon is absent. For example, English words describing family members generally show gender distinction. Yet the English word cousin can refer to either a male or female cousin

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chen s curve theory

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'

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  be measured on a chart and will produce a curve resembling the letter 'S'.

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Wave Model- bailey

Baliey (1973)suggested a model thatgeographical distance can have an effect on language change.

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.

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halliday functional change

meets needs of user, accounts for technological, innovation and slang changes

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mistakes lead to language change- link to damp spoon?

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