Language Change

English Language B A2

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  • Created by: lauren
  • Created on: 10-06-12 10:46

Early Modern English

Impact of printing - Caxton 1476 - crucial factor in the emergence of an accepted 'standard' English - Caxton chose East Midland dialect - London, Oxford, Cambridge - most pretigious and correct form of English - spelling and punctuation slowly became more standardized  - inconsistencies remained but gradually started to disappear - most moden punctuation marks entered english after intervention of printing - end of modern english - modern puncutation system began to occur (1700)

Latin - influence of latin during 16 and 17th century - during Renaissance more interest among scholars and classical texts and authors - more than 1/2 modern english was dervied from latin - latin from many of our prefixes - ant- post- pre- and suffixes -ate -ic -al - latin origin words - mangnificient emotion colossal history vacuum intellect monopoly nation 

Grammar and phonology - language of Shakespeare's plays still marked as unusual ordering of words, inflections -est -eth and pronouns thou thee thy - main development in phonology great vowel shiftof 15th and 16th centuries- pronounciation of long vowel sounds was transformed and became similar to that we use today

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Late Modern English

Standardization - many of the rules of grammar we observe today began in 18th century when several influential books of grammar were written - dictionary of English - Samuel Johnson - 1755 - important contribution to the standardization of word meanings and spellings - late modern english - regional differences lessened - growth in education and literacy improved communications - caused many dialect words and expressions to be replaced by standard english vocab - regional slang - still alive - marked differences in pronounciation remain between different parts of the country - new words continued to pour into our language - scientific and technological advances created a large number of new words - new inventions remain one of the main sources of lexical and semantic change

English as an international language - became international - new varieties been created - American English - expansion of British Empire in 19C - emergence of US as a superpower in 20Cbeen the driving forces - international varieties have had an infuence on our English - increasingy number of americanisms used in everyday language

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Lexical Change

Completely new words - Coinage - creation of completely new words that are not derived from any other words - very few words enter language like this - normally they are derived from words that already exist

Words from other languages - Borrowing + loan words - when words are taken from other languages - Soprano - italian - prince - french - lager - german - alcohol - arabic- english absorbed a number of words from the french, latin and greeks - borrowing can occur when a new idea or product is introduced into english life  - russian word vodka entered english this way  - also reflect power and prestige that language has at a particular time - political and economic power of the US and the influence of american culture - reflect in an increasingy number of americanisms - gofer - off-limits

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Lexical change

Words formed from existing words -

Affixing - most common source of new words - adding prefixes or suffixes to existing words to form new words - prefixes -micro (microwave) -multi (multimedia) inter- super- mega- Suffix -ism now used to indicate prejudice as in ageism sizeism - -gate become a suffix denoting scandal

Compounding - when words are combined to form a new larger word or expression - blackbird and laptop are compounds - compounds sometimes divided by a hyphen blue-eyed and can be seperate words head waiter happy hour

Blends - only parts of each word are joined together to form a new word - smog from smoke and fog - motel from motor and hotel  - computer term bit from binary and digit

Conversion - word class of an exisiting word changes creating a new use for the word - noun to a verb, verb to a noun, adjective to verb

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Lexical change

Words formed by shortening - 

Abbreviation/clipping - new word formed by shortening an existing word in some way - ad from advertisement - bus from omnibus - burger from hamburger

Back formation - a word of one type - usually a noun - is shortened to form a word of another type - usually a verb - edit from editor - donate from donation - burgle from burgular

Acronyms - words formed from the initial letters of existing words - radar from radio detection and ranging - scuba from self contained under water breathing apparatus - computer language BASIC from beginners all purpose symbollic instruction code

Words from names - Eponyms - words derive from the names of people or places - sandwich is named after the fourth earl of sandwich - denim was a material originally imported 'denimes' from nimes in france - other words are trade names - hoover yo-yo

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Lexical change

Losing words from the lexicon - Archaisms and obsolete words - words and phrases that are no longer used at all are known as being obsolete - archaisms are words that are rarely used but do still exist 

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Semantic change

Broadening - meaning of a word broadens - retains its old meaning but also takes on new meanings - Holiday used to mean holy day but now it means any day of the week when people dont have to work - dog used to mean a breed of dog and now means all breeds

Narrowing - a word becomes more specific in its meaning - meat originally meant food in general not just animal flesh - girl used to mean all young people not only females

Amelioration - change gives the word a more positive meaning - pretty used to mean sly or cunning but now means attractive - wicked still has its older meaning of evil but now used in slang which can mean superb/brilliant

Pejoration - change gives the word a more negative meaning - cowboy now often used to indicate incompetence or dishonesty 'cowboy builders' - impertinent once mean irrelevant and now means rude

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Semantic change

Weakening - words losing over time some of their original strength - soon now means in the near future but used to mean immediately

Metaphorical extension - often acquire new meanings because they begin to be used metaphorically - hawks and doves now just birds but also politicians favouring war and peace - onion bag refers to the net of a goal as well as a bag containing onions

Idioms - always formed from previously existing words - in the doghouse - under the weather - over the moon - wake up and smell the coffee is a more recent example meaning get in touch with the real world

Euphemisms - mild or inoffensive way of describing something distasteful or unpleasant - in the world of business a lack of money can be described as a cashflow problem and the sackong of employees can be referred to as downsizing - bombing raids are surgical strikes and for civilian casualties - collateral damage

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Semantic change

Political correctness - some semantic change has arisen from the desire for political correctness - drive to replace words and expressions that are considered offensivr or demeaning to disadvantaged or minority groups - people with learning difficulties instead of mentally handicapped or backward - mixed race replacing halfcast - words such as actor and sculptor which now refer to females as well as males

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Phonological change

Changes in the pronounciation of words - great vowel shift 1400-1600 - sound change - important - pronounciation of long vowel sounds changed replacing them with sounds similar to those we have today - to from toe - wife from weef - mouse from moos - been from bayn - her from heer 

why does phonological change happen? not always clear - but social factors seem to be an important factor - we imitate the speech of people we admire of respect - this language change spreads - Aitchison - four stages to phonological changes

1. speech of a particular social group differs in some way from the usual pronounciation of the area in which they live

2. s a second social group begins - possibly unconcsiously - to imitate the speech of the first group 

3. new pronounciation becomes established among the seond group - now part of usual accent

4. third social group now beings to model istelf on the second group and so on

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Grammatical change

Inflections - loss of inflections - they indicate the grammatical form of a word - most inflections involve the ends of words

Verbs - inflections usually indicate tense, person or number - present tense - he walks - past tense he walked - first person - I walk - third person he walks - singular - he walks - plural they walk -

Nouns - inflections usually show number of gender - singular actor - plural actors - male actor - female actress

Adjectives - inflections used for comparatives and superlatives - fast, faster, fastest

great majority of nouns change from singular to plural by the addition of an s at the end of a word - book -books

Pronouns - thou thee thine generally disappeared - some regional dialects a distinction between singular and plural still exists - youse as a plural word

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Grammatical change

Word order - inflections used to indicate whether a word was the subject of a sentence or the object so less relied upon word order so construction of sentecnes was freer and word order was more varied - modern english word order is less flexible but theres still some variation - she gave me it - she gave it me - 2nd example older construction

Negative constructions - multiple negatives - such as double negative i dont want nothing - considered incorrect grammar - in the past they were considered acceptable and were used for emphasis - now can be used for sarcasm with the negaive at the end of a positive sentence - that haircut really suits you - not

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Causes of language change

Ease of articulation - some words change in ways that make them physically easier to say - omission - sounds disappear from words - hast now had gavest now gave - no longer pronounce the b sound at the ends of words such as tomb lamb or thumb - god be with you is shortened to goodbye - modern english we say phone rather than telephone and gym rather than gymnasium - assimilation - when the pronounication of a phoneme is affected by the phoneme that is next to it - pronounciation of the phoneme is changed so that it becomes easier - most people pronounce sandwich as samwich - both omission and assimilation - the d is dropped - omission and the n changes to m beause the w thst comes after it makes an m sound easier to pronounce

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Causes of language change

Regularization - when we change language in order to make it more consistent - we look for rules and patterns in language that we use and sometimes change words and constructions if they seem odd or different - analogy - can affect all areas of language - example often cited is pea - originally this was pease but over time pease/peas became a plural word and a new singular noun pea came into use - brought pea/peas with the great majority of nouns which only have an -s ending when the word is plural - example of regularization in spelling - delight - originally not spelt with the letters gh  - adding these letters made in consistent with similar sounding words such as light and might

Social influences - language change often reflects changes in society - changing circumstances in society create a need to express new meanings - new inventions and new ideas all require new words to describe them - some changes motivated by the desire for novelty - te wish to be different or fashionable - creation of new slang words often exemplifies this

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Causes of language change

Influence of other languages - often brings about language change - military invasion/immigration/trading links/culutral products - likely to influence vocabulary - contains many borrowings from other languages - 

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Attitudes to language change

Precriptavist and descriptavist approaches - prescriptavists - favour rules that identify 'correct' language usage - they disapprove of uses of language that break these rules - descriptavist - seek to describe as accuractley and objectively as possible how language is actually used - they do not label particular uses of correct or incorrect

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this has been really helpful - do you have on for language acquisition as well?


no i don't sorry, i did this because i'm not that good at language change! which question are you planning on answering?

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