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How Do Languages Change? Jessica Aloe Roberto Soto
Languages Change. As we’ve seen, languages are constantly changing. There are vast differences between Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. What are the processes through which languages change?
Ways Languages Change. Words are created. Words change meaning. Grammar changes. Pronunciation changes. The speech community changes.
New Words Are Created All The Time: List of words that have recently entered the English Language: Agroterrorism. Cyberterrorism. Celebutante. Crunk. Podcast. Blog. Texting. How Do Words Get Added to the OED? -There is a team of people who scan printed media and look for new coinages that fit certain criteria, including use five separate times in five separate media over five years.
Methods For Creating New Words. Compounding: Combining two existing words into one word. Paperback, bookkeeper, striptease, overhead, mainland. Blending: The process in which arbitrary portions of two words are chopped off and stitched together. Podcast, motel, guesstimate, pulsar, Chunnel, smog.
Methods, Con’t. Derivation: Adding prefixes and suffixes to existing words. Miniskirt, pseudoscience, transatlantic, archenemy, mountainous Back-Formation: The removal from a word from something that is apparently, but not actually, an affix. Burglar --> Burgle Babysitter--> Babysit.
Methods, Con’t. Clipping: Extracting arbitrary portions of a longer word to create a new word with identical meaning. Fridge, fax, ump, mic, porn, veg, deli, zoo, bus, phone. Acronyms: A word is derived from the initial letters of an entire phrase. Radar, AIDS, laser, WASP, NATO, NAFTA.
Words Change Meaning. Girl - > Used to mean a young person of any sex. Meat - > food of any kind. Cheek and Jaw switched meanings.
Ways Words Change Meaning: Specialization/Generaliz ation. Meat used to mean all food; was specialized to mean a specific type of food. Dog used to mean a specific type of breed; was generalized to refer to the species. Gentleman was also generalized. Girl was specialized. Euphemism: A polite way of saying something indirectly. How many ways do you know to say 1) to die, 2) to urinate, 3) to kill?
How Grammar Changes. In class, we have seen many examples of grammar changes in English, for example, the loss of inflection. Simplification is one major way grammar changes. I dreamt of you last night and I dreamed of you last night are both commonly used. Dreamt is technically the “proper” form; it is an irregular verb. Dreamed has become more common; speakers have begun to treat ‘to dream’ as a regular verb.
Which Of These Phrases Seems Incorrect? 1) I will be there at eight o’clock. 2) The one you want is me. 3) I don’t have no money. 4) That’s the man I was talking to. 5) I need to really make an effort. 6) Who did you see?
All Of Them Were Once Declared Incorrect! The beginning of the 18th century saw grammarians begin to condemn certain constructions as wrong, even if they were commonly used. This is prescriptivism. The opposing view is called descriptivism.
Pronunciation Changes. Speakers of English pronounce words differently. Different accents have differing amounts of prestige associated with them. People often adapt their pronunciation to mimic the more prestigious accent. In England, the non-rhotic accent is seen as more prestigious; in the United States, rhotic is becoming more prestigious.
How Do You Pronounce These Words? Envelope Ate Longitude Status Deity Economics
The Speech Community The speech community is a sociolinguistic concept that describes a more or less discrete group of people who use language in a unique and mutually accepted way among themselves. Linguistic features often originate in one speech community, and then spread.
The Speech Community, Con’t. Interactions between speech communities change language. English has become a lingua franca, but when a speech community adopts a lingua franca, properties of their language makes its way into the lingua franca. This is often the basis for pidgins.
Prestige, Again. The idea of a speech community is essential to the idea of prestige. Because members of a speech community have certain attributes that others want to emulate, and because speech is a vital part of community identity, people will emulate prestigious speakers in order to assume the prestige associated with that community.
Prestige, Again, Con’t. Speech is often seen as a ‘passport to success’. This is the plot of a famous play, My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kBNr3djnZ M The ascot scene from My Fair Lady. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kBNr3djnZ M
Conclusion There are several differing views on language change. One is that language is decaying. This is evident in the backlash against “textspeak”, for example. Another is that the trend towards simplification means that language is changing to become more efficient. A third view is that language change is simplifying in some aspects, but is also subject to outside forces (from other languages, for example), that counterbalance the simplification.
Conclusion, Con’t. Language is always changing, every day. Changes can start small, but spread throughout the speakers until it becomes the dominant form in a language.
References Aitchison, Jean. Language Change: Progress or Decay? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001. Diamond, Graeme. “New Words; How Do They Get Into the Oxford English Dictionary?” http://www.askoxford.com/worldofwords/newwords/newwordsdict/?view=uk. Retrieved November, 2008. http://www.askoxford.com/worldofwords/newwords/newwordsdict/?view=uk Muhlhausler, Peter. “The role of pidgin and creole languages in language progression and regression.” in Progression & regression in language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1993. Sato, Charlene J. “Language change in a creole continuum: decreolization?” Progression & regression in language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1993. Trask, R. L. Language Change. Routledge, London and New York, 1994.