- Language change
Language change is the manner in which the phonetic, morphological, semantic, syntactic, and other features of a language are modified over time. All languages are continually changing. At any given moment the
English language, for example, has a huge variety within itself, and this variety is known as synchronic variation. From these different forms comes the effect on language over time known as diachronic change. Two linguistic disciplines concern themselves with studying language change: historical linguisticsand sociolinguistics. Historical linguists examine how a language was spoken in the past and seek to determine how present languages derive from it and are related to one another. Sociolinguists are interested in the origins of language changes and want to explain how society and changes in society influence language.
Causes of language change
1. Economy: Speakers tend to make their utterances as efficient and effective as possible to reach their communicative goals. Speaking involves therefore a planning of costs and benefits.
Types of language change
All languages are constantly changing. The causes are many and varied.
The constant influx of new words in the English language would make it an obvious choice of investigation into language change, although it is difficult to define precisely and accurately the vocabulary available to speakers of English. Throughout its history English has not only borrowed words extravagantly from other languages but has re-combined and recycled them to create new meanings, whilst losing some old words. The study of lexical changes is the task of
Dictionary writers try to keep track of the change in language by recording the appearance in the language of new words, or new usages for old words.
Phonetic and phonological changes
William Labovfamously recorded the change in pronunciation in a relatively short period in the American resort of Martha’s Vineyardand showed how this was the result of social tensions and processes. [William Labov, 1963. "The social motivation of a sound change." "Word" 19.273-309. The 1963 study is widely recognized as a seminal work in the foundation of sociolinguistics.] Even in the relatively short time that broadcast media have been available, we can observe the difference between the ‘marked’ pronunciation of the newsreaders of the 1940s and the 1950s and the more neutral, ‘unmarked’ pronunciation of today. The greater acceptance and fashionability of regional accents in the media may also reflect a more democratic, less formal society.
Small-scale phonological changes are difficult to map and record, especially as the technology of sound recording only goes back a hundred years or so. So the only evidence we have of how language has changed over the centuries is written evidence of what human languages have sounded like.
The modern obsession with
spellingis a fairly recent trend in the West Fact|date=July 2008. Differences in spelling are very often the most immediately obvious thing about a text from a previous century. In the pre-print era, when literacy was much less common, there was no fixed system and in the handwritten manuscripts that survive, words are spelt according to regional pronunciation and personal preference.
The development of the
printing press, however, presented printers with dilemmas: texts from the fifteenth through to the seventeenth centuries show many internal inconsistencies, with the same word often being spelled differently within the same text. Famously, Shakespearespelled his own name in many different ways. Additionally, they were tempted to choose from the various spellings based on typographicalcriterion, e.g. to get uniform line lengths when assembling type pieces on a composing stick. It being easier to make one of the lines of type longer than to make the other lines shorter, word lengths tended to standardize on the longer spellings.
Unfortunately modern spellings were not the result of a single consistent system; rather, they show evidence of previous pronunciations which had changed over time. For example, the spelling of words such as "night" would have represented the original pronunciation, the "gh" representing a sound similar to that found in the Scottish "loch". Other examples include the 'k' in 'knee' and 'knight' that were previously pronounced and the 'ch' in 'chicken' and 'cheese', which was once pronounced as 'k'.
It could be said that English spelling is stuck in the 15th Century, when
William Caxtonchose the East Midland dialect i.e. London( Wessex) variety of English for his first print in 1476. He had to discriminate against many duplicate words used in other areas of England (such as the East Anglia, Northumberlandand Mercia). For example, the Southern word 'eyren' was unintelligible with the Northern equivalent, 'egges' (modern 'eggs').
The appearance of a new word is only the beginning of its existence. Once it becomes part of the language the meanings and applications it has for speakers can shift dramatically, to the point of causing misunderstandings. For example, 'villain' once meant a peasant, or farmhand, but means a criminal individual in
modern English. This is an example of a word that has undergone pejoration, which means that a negative meaning has come to be attached to it. Conversely, other words have undergone amelioration, where a positive meaning comes to be understood. Thus, the word 'wicked' (generally meaning 'evil') now means 'brilliant' in slang or in a colloquial context.
Other semantic change includes narrowing and broadening. Narrowing a word semantically limits its alternative meanings. For example the word 'girl' once meant 'a young child' and 'hound' (
Old English'hund') referred to 'all dogs', and now it means a particular type. Examples of words that have been broadened semantically include 'dog' (which once meant a particular breed).
To the extent that a language is
vocabularycast into the mould of a particular syntax and that the basic structureof the sentenceis held together by functional items, with the lexical itemsfilling in the blanks, syntactic changeis no doubt what modifies most deeply the physiognomy of a particular language. Syntactic change affects grammar in its morphological and syntactic aspects and is seen as gradual, the product of chain reactions and subject to cyclic drift. [ Henri Wittmann(1983). "Les réactions en chaîne en morphologie diachronique." "Actes du Colloque de la Société internationale de linguistique fonctionnelle" 10.285-92. [http://homepage.mac.com/noula/ling/1983c-morphodia.pdf] ] The view that creole languagesare the product of catastrophismis heavily disputed. Altintas, Can, and Patton (2007) introduce a systematic approach to language change quantification by studying unconsciously used language features in time-separated parallel translations. For this purpose, they use objective style markers such as vocabulary richness and lengths of words, word stems and suffixes, and employ statistical methods to measure their changes over time.
ociolinguistics and language change
Jennifer Coates, following William Labov, describes linguistic change as occurring in the context of linguistic heterogeneity. She explains that “ [l] inguistic change can be said to have taken place when a new linguistic form, used by some sub-group within a speech community, is adopted by other members of that community and accepted as the norm.” [Coates, 1992: 169]
Language change has been induced by a number of factors over the centuries. In modern times language change is for example being brought about by technology. The
internetand mobile technology have altered language with the use of instant messaging and texting from mobile phones.
Oxford English Dictionary
*Altintas, K., Can, F., Patton, J. M., "Language change quantification using time-separated parallel translations." Literary & Linguistic Computing. Vol. 22, No. 4 (November 2007), pp. 375-393.
*Coates, J. (1992), "Women, Men and Language", Second Edition, Essex.
*Labov, William (1994, 2001), "Principles of Linguistic Change" (vol.I "Internal Factors", 1994; vol.II "Social Factors", 2001), Blackwell.
*Wardhaugh, R. (1986), "An Introduction to Sociolinguistics", Oxford/ New York.
*Wittmann, H. (1983), "Les réactions en chaîne en morphologie diachronique." "Actes du Colloque de la Société internationale de linguistique fonctionnelle" 10.285-92. [http://homepage.mac.com/noula/ling/1983c-morphodia.pdf]
* [http://www.bl.uk/soundsfamiliar Sounds Familiar?] Visit the British Library website to listen to changing accents and dialects from across the UK
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Language attrition — is the loss of a first or second language or a portion of that language by individuals; it should be distinguished from language loss within a community (the latter process is referred to as language shift or language death). Language attrition… … Wikipedia
Language geography — is the branch of human geography that studies the geographic distribution of language or its constituent elements. There are two principal fields of study within the geography of language: the geography of languages , which deals with the… … Wikipedia
Language Log — is a collaborative language blog maintained by University of Pennsylvania phonetician Mark Liberman.The site is updated daily at the whims of the contributors, and most of the posts are on language use in the media and popular culture. Google… … Wikipedia
Language death — In linguistics, language death (also language extinction or linguistic extinction, and rarely linguicide or glottophagy) is a process that affects speech communities where the level of linguistic competence that speakers possess of a given… … Wikipedia
Language planning — This article is about the field of language planning and policy. See Constructed language for details on the creation of planned or artificial languages. Language planning is a deliberate effort to influence the function, structure, or… … Wikipedia
Change — 1 Original name in latin Chang Name in other language Change, Chang State code FR Continent/City Europe/Paris longitude 48.09918 latitude 0.79292 altitude 59 Population 5245 Date 2012 01 18 2 Original name in latin Chang Name in other language… … Cities with a population over 1000 database
Language identification in the limit — is a formal model for inductive inference. It was introduced by E. Mark Gold in his paper with the same title [http://www.isrl.uiuc.edu/ amag/langev/paper/gold67limit.html] . In this model, a learner is provided with presentation of some language … Wikipedia
Language contact — occurs when two or more languages or varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics. Multilingualism has likely been common throughout much of human history, and today most people in the world are multilingual. … Wikipedia
Language expectancy theory — (LET) is a language based theory of persuasion [M. Burgoon and Miller, 1985; M. Burgoon, Hunsaker Dawson, 1994; M. Burgoon, Jones Stewart, 1975)] . The theory looks at the effects of linguistic variations on persuasive messages. It is based on… … Wikipedia
Change of Habit — Directed by William A. Graham Produced by Joe Connelly … Wikipedia