More Language Change Notes


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  • Created by: amy
  • Created on: 10-06-12 14:58

Key Changers of Language

1476 - Caxtons Printing Press brought to Britian, beginning the process of standardisation

1755 - Publication of Samuel Johnsons dictionary. Influential in the standardisation of spelling

Late 18th Century - Many grammar books published laying down rules for English Language usage. Doctrine of correctness = the 18th century trend to set rules for the English Language. Key features of the doctrine were the preference for long complex lexis and complex sentence structures. It was the fashion to write like this as a marker of social class and education

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Texts written before 18th century English

  • Non-standardised spellings
  • Syntax changes
  • Archaic lexis
  • Archaic inflections
  • Archaic second person pronoun - (Thou, thee, thy), the intimate form and (Ye,your and you), the polite form. Derived from the french use of tu/vous
  • Lack of sentence boundaries
  • Non-standard use of capitals
  • Different uses of verbs (primary auxillaries in particular)
  • Semantic changes
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Middle 18th century to early 20th century

  • Long, complex, yet carefully structured sentences
  • Formal tenor
  • Complex latinate lexis
  • Some archaic lexis
  • Subtle changes in meaning
  • Subtle changes in grammar
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Changes in syntax - Syntax was more flexible and ocassionally inverted to form an interrogative in older texts

Auxillary verbs - Loss of the high frequency of inflections predominantly seen in middle english, led to a increased use of auxillary verbs. Used as alternatives to construct interrogatives, declaratives and imperatives.

Archaic second person personal pronouns - Singular and plural forms. 'You' in late 17th century began to replace 'thou' and 'thee' however the old forms did linger on in some dialects and usages

Archaic verb/noun inflections - 2nd person singular inflection 'est', disappeared with the simplication of the second person pronouns
3rd person singular present tense inflection 'eth' was replaced with 's' and 'es'. May have still been used in 18th century texts as a delibriate archaism

Lack of sentence boundaries and increased use of long, complex sentences

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Lexis & Semantics

Latin words often used for prestige and to raise formality of texts as well as covering specialist areas such as law

Semantic change (broadening or narrowing) - words change meaning over time

Amelioration/ pejoration - Changes in attitude mean that words may acquire more positive or negative meanings over time

Euphemism - Changes in attitudes mean that sometimes ideas are expressed using euphemistic language

Metaphor - New meanings can be created through metaphors

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Spelling & Punctuation

Lack of/ different use of punctuation - Punctus, virgule, colon?

Capitilisation - Capitalising common nouns for emphasis

Spelling - A text from before 1700 may contain lots of spelling changes, however post publication of Johnson's dictionary (1755) should be more or less standardised

Final 'e' - Richard mulcaster suggested that an 'e' is to be placed on a word with a long vowel sound

Inconsistency - U/V and 'I/J interchangable. People were unfamilar with the difference between the vowel sound and constanent

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