5.7 – Language Change Issues

Is language change simply a matter of lack of care and maintenance on the part of its speakers?

Yes – Language can change due to carelessness of the user in interpreting a word differently to its original meaning, thus eventually changing the meaning of the word. For example, the noun ‘clue’ used to mean a ball of yarn. This word then changed meaning to mean ‘a piece of evidence’. This change is thought to have occurred through tales of navigating a maze (theseus and the minotaur) through a ‘clew’, which at the time would have actually meant a trail of yarn, but was later interpreted as pieces of evidence to find your way around. This is an example of carelessness.

‘ Our modern sense of clue, “guide to the solution of a mystery,” grows out of a motif in myth and folklore, the ball of thread that helps in finding one’s way out of a maze.’

No – Carefulness is  shown in language through the addition of new words typically by younger generations in order to deliberately change language and diverge from older generations they don’t want to identify with. Example – the verb ‘to cap’ or ‘capping’ means to lie/fake, popularised by modern rappers such as ‘young thug’. It is often used as a means of emphasis. 

‘ This is the best film ever – no cap’ – artfulness – creative & deliberate

Even if eventual change is inevitable, can we appreciably retard it?

What words and phrases have developed since 1950 in the media, youth culture, communication and politics?

  • The noun ‘troll’ (dangerous mythical creature) has now varied into becoming the verb ‘to troll’ (baiting people on the internet) to explain vicious use of the media. Possibly first used in 1980s.
  •  ‘viral’, ‘feed’, ‘tea’ are all examples of broadening – youth culture and media influences
  • They have developed due to new technology features such as ‘feed’ being used now as a way of describing what comes up on your social media page, instead of being used as a present tense verb for eating or a noun for animal food. 
  • ‘phishing’ and ‘clickbait’ are terms which have been recently coined (1990s) due to new technology advances and issues which arose from this. 
  • Words like ‘kompromat’ in politics have been directly borrowed from other languages. ‘Kompromat’ itself is from Russian and means any ‘compromising information collected for use in blackmailing, discrediting, or manipulating someone, typically for political purposes’. This encourages more variety in vocabulary, and adds to the possible political jargon present. 

If the English Language is still changing is it in danger of breaking up into many Englishes?

–  is this supposedly a bad thing? Should it be seen as ‘dangerous’? 

– many dialects could stem from new words and meanings being used more often in certain areas due to identity, class or age to mention a few factors

–  many people still are prescriptivist in their way of thinking about the new words and meanings having less value than ‘proper’ English or the ‘standard’ way of communicating things.This may have an ‘Othering’ effect on those who use it more often. This means that the ‘Othered’ groups might use more new phrases and meanings both subconsciously and consciously to emphasise their identity and/or belonging to a group even more. This creates new Englishes as it becomes a new normal. 

(not finished)

How did the “long-standing admiration for Latin” affect the attempts to regulate the English Language?

70% of our words came from Latin

The revival of classic literature introduced new words and classical works were translated into English and if a suitable equivalent did not exist, a new word was created.

Many words were imported from Latin due to its associations with education- genius, apparatus, nausea.

The spelling of words was also influenced by the addition of a silent ‘b’ in words like ‘debt’ to reflect their Latin roots (‘debitum’)

Latin was considered the language of knowledge and education, and there was an importance surrounding the idea of being intelligent. 

The Latin influence on English has been 3-fold:

1ststage= importing Latin words 

                  Mainly related to plants, fruits and food

                  e.g. Wine, pea, mint, milk

                  these words didn’t originally exist in these forms, and have changed over time, but they 

                  came from Latin

2ndstage= Christian Missionaries in the late 6thand 7thcenturies

                   Brought ideas related to religion and the church

                   e.g. minister from ‘monesterium’ and priest from ‘presbyter’

                   many of these words were Greek but entered English through Latin

                   Latin was also the Language of the Catholic Church, which also had a large impact on

                   English

                   With Christianity came more scientific words and concepts of law

                   e.g. custody, prosecute, index, mechanical

3rdstage= revival of classic scholarship in the 16thcentury

                  Some words which came from French were Latinised 

                        e.g. aventure to adventure from the L.adventurus, dette to debt from the L.debitum,

                               langage to language from the L.lingua

                  Native words+ Latin suffixes

                        e.g. Starvation, talkative

                  Greek word+ Latin suffixes

                        e.g. climactic from ‘climax’

                  Latin Prefix+ Native word

                        e.g. interchange, preview, rebirth

                  End proper nouns with latinised adjectives

                        e.g. Shakespeare- Shakespearean

                  Some native nouns have Latin adjectives

                        e.g. Mouth= oral, Home=domestic

Are older forms of English more correct than more recent ones?

Shakespeare- used ‘-eth’ suffix (loveth) instead of the ‘-en’ suffix (loven). This became the standard. We now use the ‘-es’ as a verb ending (loves). At the time, these were the standardised versions used in widely read items like the King James Bible. We now have the current standardised versions where ‘-eth’ is no longer used.

There has been an increasing use of auxiliary verbs ‘do/have/be’ over time which has changed the word order. For example, ‘not’ is now placed before the verb instead of after- ‘I do not deny’ instead of ‘I deny not’.

Shakespeare used contractions such as ‘she’ll/we’ll/there’s/I’m’ and so used to be common.  In the 18thcentury, some people, like Jonathan Swift, complained about the usage of contractions and deemed them incorrect.  However, in the 19thcentury, they became more common again (at a point in time they were considered incorrect but are now acceptable again)

Prescriptivists may see older forms as ‘more correct’, potentially due to the origins of Latin and its associations with education and scholarship. Currently, Standard English is considered ‘correct’ in upper class/educated circles due to its associations with education but it has features that aren’t found in Latin. In Latin, a sentence can’t end in a preposition but in SE, this is acceptable- “what did you step on?”

Double negatives used to be common- Shakespeare sometimes used them in his plays, such as in ‘As You Like It- “I cannot go no further”. Then in the 18thcentury, prescriptivists decided they were not correct, likely due to Latin’s lack of double negatives. They are still considered incorrect in SE.

Language has changed over time and so one form is not ‘more correct’ it is just the new standard. 

Prescriptivists may see older forms as ‘more correct’ – which older form should we settle on? The form in which contractions were ok (17thC) or the following more recent age when they were deemed incorrect? 

How and why have words and phrases in the areas of warfare, politics and technology developed?

An example of a phrase that developed in the area of warfare is the concept of ‘guerrilla warfare.’ The Spanish word ‘guerrilla’ is the diminutive form of ‘guerra’ (meaning war). The term became popular when the Spanish and Portuguese people rose up against Napoleonic troops and fought the superior army using a guerrilla strategy (the diminutive was meant to show the difference in size and scope between the guerrilla army and the professional army). The term was used in English as early as 1809, referring to either individual fighters or a group of such fighters, but it is most commonly used to describe the type of warfare being fought. 

An example of a political word that has developed over time is, ‘parliament.’ The term comes from the 11thcentury Old French ‘parlement’ coming from ‘parler’ (which means to speak). Its meaning has evolved over time from referring to discussion, conversation or negotiation through any type of judicial group, often summoned by a monarch, but came to specifically mean the legislature in Britain by the 15thcentury. In this case the word was partially adopted from French but had its meaning change to refer to purely one area through its use over time.

Romanticisation of Greek ideal – talk – but also we have “talking-shop”

Why have new words and meanings developing over the last 50 years in the British Isles sometimes provoked strong feelings and heated arguments?

An example of a word that is often disliked that has developed over the last 50 years is that of ‘selfie.’ The word seemed to originate from Australia, which makes sense as the ‘-ie’ suffix is a natural part of most Australian’s language, being a mark of informality for them. The hated of the word could be linked to the hatred of what the word is referring to. Some people associate selfies with narcissism, distasteful and ruining public places – and selfies taken at inappropriate or tragic moments are obviously met with scorn. They are also inherently linked to online culture, which could be another reason for their dislike amongst some. Ultimately it could also boil down to hated of change.

Why do users of contemporary British English borrow words and phrases from other languages and dialects?

Borrowing is a consequence of cultural contact between two language communities, and whilst borrowing can go both directions more words tend to go to one side more. With the world being so globalised, in no small part due to the world wide web, it only makes sense British English would borrow words. Most words in the English language are already derived from French, Latin and Germanic Languages too, so it isn’t like there is no precedent for borrowing. Some examples that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests entered English during the past 30 years include’ tarka dal’, a creamy Indian lentil dish (1984, from Hindi), ‘quinzhee’, a type of snow shelter (1984, from Slave or another language of the Pacific Coast of North America), ‘popiah’, a type of Singaporean or Malaysian spring roll (1986, from Malay), ‘izakaya’, a type of Japanese bar serving food (1987), ‘affogato’, an Italian dessert made of ice cream and coffee (1992), which shows too that food names are particularly common to be borrowed. These words aren’t exactly common though, but words slowly build up in frequency (such as ‘sushi’ entering the language in the 1890s but mostly having what it is explained back then, whereas today its commonplace). ‘Emoji’ is also derived from another language (Japanese) coming from ‘e’ meaning picture and ‘moji’ meaning letter, which is an example of borrowing being caused by a necessity for a word to describe something new.

How has concern for equality in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability and other areas influenced changes in British English over the last 50 years?

-Womxn Term used in intersectional feminism to avoid using patriarchal language, and to include ‘trans and non-binary women’ , however, may be considered transphobic as trans women are women and non-binary people aren’t women

-dumb commonly used to mean unintelligent, however, one of its older meanings is ‘unable to speak, most typically because of congenital deafness’, and that by using it as an insult, the word is ableist (some would argue)

-Nitty Gritty: Thought to refer to the detritus found in the bottom of boats once a shipment of slaves had been removed from the hold. The ‘nit’ refers to a parasitic insect – the ‘grits’ are the grain which would have been used as a cheap foodstuff to keep a slave ship’s cargo barely fed.

Currently used as ‘the basic facts’, ‘the most important aspects or practical details’, ‘the key parts or substance’ one of the several words and phrases which the BBC has discouraged its commentators from using

-during Segregation racist southerners used “uppity” to describe Black people “who didn’t know their place,” socioeconomically speaking. Originally, the term started within the Black community, but the racists adopted it pretty quickly. (American tv host Rush Limbaugh once described Michelle Obama as uppity, which was considered racist)

How and why does language change happen?

•  Borrowing becomes conventionalised – either by fashion, convenience or academia e.g. ‘denim’

•  Technology – new words being created for things that did not previously exist e.g. ‘download’

•  Natural selection – based on function. Only words relevant to their users needs remain in their, and subsequently their children and peer groups’, language). 

•  It’s generational – this is the idea that each speaker develops a repertoire of grammar and lexicon based on the input of their caregivers (and wider speech community).

•  When new words are borrowed or invented, the semantics of old words change, and morphology develops or decays. Old words can often be given new meanings, e.g. ‘cute’ (a clipping of ‘acute’ – in 1500s meant smart and keen). 

What will the English language be like in twenty years… a hundred years?

•  Syntax will perhaps be less prescriptive due to the rise in social media and internetspeak, as well as the continuation and blurring of textspeak into the written and spoken mode. 

•  English as the universal lingua franca – British English is not the international standard nor the prestige. US English is the most spoken variety of English (with 225 million speakers of the dialect). 

•  There is 1 native speaker to every 5 non-native speakers of the English Language. Will this mean that British English dialects and Standard English will fade away as the world becomes more international and multicultural? 

•  Will there be more or fewer varieties of English? More – migration, trade and social media. Fewer – perhaps social media and the internet age will lead rise to the conventionalisation of a non-standard variety (e.g. textspeak)

•  Influence and linguistic relativity – in the next century, there may be evidence of the standardisation of language to follow the same syntax and grammar rules e.g the conventionalisation of the Standard English present perfect ‘have you ever played cricket?’, rather than the US English past simple ‘did you ever play cricket?’ 

•  This may be a sign of accommodation, as standardisation may be used to aid communication, and for clarity, between social groups or individuals.

Is social class prejudice a factor in language change?

•  The presence of social class prejudice (or classism) may lead people to assert their status or upwardly converge from the standard to show prestige as a means of power gain. 

•  Status and solidarity are present in politics – as was made evident by Tony Blair’s downward convergence to a non-standard variety – in order to engage and show solidarity with the British public. 

•  Overt and covert prestige – in social groups, different prestiges occur, meaning prejudices are present among both standard and non-standard varieties. 

•  This may cause language to change, as prejudices may make people stray further from the standard, highlighting their status or exaggerating the non-standard features of their language, making language more varied and its use more defined by social groups than occupation or age, perhaps. 

Should upper-middle class usage be seen as “more correct” than other usages?

•  This can be seen as prescriptivist or hypercorrection, wherein a speaker or writer generally believes through a misunderstanding of such rules that the form is more “correct”, or preferable, often combined with a desire to appear formal or educated.

•  There was, until recently, prestige associated with being ‘U’ or upper-class, and ‘non-U’. In 1955, writer, Nancy Mitford wrote a CIA-funded magazine, she implied rules for ‘U’ and ‘non-U’ classes. Her friend and fellow writer, Evelyn Waugh said: ‘There are subjects too intimate for print… surely class is one?’ in response to her magazine. 

•  Back then, her observations on class were solely based on language – whether you ‘took a bath’ (non-U) or ‘had one’s bath’ (U). Whether you said ‘chimneypiece’ (U) or ‘mantelpiece’ (non-U). This demonstrates the role of social class in language, and is a clear example of gatekeeping and prescriptivism. 

•  Though the distinction between socioeconomic classes feels archaic, class prejudice and distinction are still present, as displayed by the exaggeration of non-standard features in young social groups and MLE, such as double negation, and the regularisation of non-standard adverbs, like in ‘drive slow’ and ‘real good’. 

‘Language is always changing’ – is this the case with phonological change in modern day Britain?

 Although it might not be obvious to us in the present that there is phonological change in Britain, the statement is still the case. One example of phonological change is that (especially younger) speakers tend to no longer use the <v> sound for the medial consonant in the word ‘nephew’ but rather they use the <f> sound, even though <v> is the traditional pronunciation across most accents. This is possibly due to increased education over the last 100 years, which means more people are familiar with how the word is spelt and may pronounce it as such. Other examples of phonological change possibly influenced by spelling includes ‘ate’ rhyming with ‘gate’ rather than ‘get’ and the initial vowel in ‘envelope’ rhyming with ‘den’ rather than ‘don.’

 Another example of modern phonological change is in regards to the prefix used before ‘hotel’ and ‘historic’ and whether the <h> sound is dropped or not. Among younger speakers the indefinite article ‘a’ is more likely to be used, in which case the initial <h> is pronounced, as opposed to if ‘an’ is used, in which case the <h> sound is omitted (more common amongst older speakers).

In what ways might a study of the history of English Language help to dispel prejudices about language change?

 One way it could dispel prejudices is by showing that meanings of words are ever changing, so that when words like ‘sick’ comes to mean both vomit and something being cool, that change isn’t perceived so negatively. An example of a word that’s meaning has changed heavily is that of ‘awful.’ In Old English (where the word is derived from) ‘awe’ meant to fear or dread, which later morphed into reverential wonder, so that ‘awful’ and ‘awesome’ were synonymous with ‘awe-inspiring.’ It wasn’t until later that ‘awful’ took on its modern meaning of something extremely bad, where as ‘awesome’ evolved in the other way in the mid-1900s to mean extremely good. A relatively recent example of a words meaning changing is ‘fantastic.’ Coming from the Old French, ‘fantastique’ via medieval Latin and Greek, the word originally referred to things that were conceived in the imagination, only coming to mean extremely good around the 1930s.

 Another way it could dispel prejudices is by showing that spellings are always changing and thus Americanisms being adopted in Britain aren’t inherently bad (e.g. ‘doughnut’ to ‘donut’). Almost every word now spelt with a ‘th’ were formally spelt with either an eth (ð) or a thorn (þ) (both old letters that were dropped as they weren’t on European printers). Individual words are always changing in spelling too, ‘pathetic’ was ‘pathetick’ from the 17thto early 19thcentury for instance and ‘show’ was ‘shew’ from the 13thto early 19thcentury.

Should the rules of language be “arbitrary laws imposed by an external authority” or a “codification of subconscious principles or convention followed by the speakers of a language” (Aitcheson)?

  • Laws of language from “external authority” could carry more mutual intelligibility due to the majority of people being exposed to the “arbitrary” rules put forward. 
  • E.g. grammatical structures such as ‘subject, verb, noun’.
  • However, grammatical structures haven’t always been the same like Old English nouns belonging to one of three genders: ‘masculine, feminine and neuter’. This suggests that either authority has changed the laws of language or more likely, that the language has been subtly changing for a very long time due to the speakers of many languages constantly mixing. 
  • Shakespeare changed many words and phrases through nominalisation (verbs into nouns) and verbing (nouns into verbs) e.g. “dog them at the heels”.
  • Appropriateness and constructing/performing identity are all factors in why this happens.
  • Subconscious convention happens all the time for example in the modern day words are constantly changing their meanings to be completely  different to the dictionary definitions or the literal meanings of a phrase e.g. ‘shook’ in the context of ‘I am shook’ meaning to be shaken up or shocked instead of being physically shaken about. 

Was Samuel Johnson’s dictionary the “most important linguistic event of the 18thcentury”?

  • Had 40,000 entries. It helped push English literature due to being the first in English to systematically illustrate definitions and quotations. Is still used today.
  • Created opinions about certain words as he omitted “shabby” “fuss” and many others from the dictionary.
  • However ‘The Times’ and ‘The Spectator’ (both newspapers) were published in the 18thcentury and established the style of this English period. A full range of verb forms were now used such as the auxiliary do for emphasis , of progressive and progressive passive forms. 

Are older forms of English more correct than more recent ones?

  • Shakespeare- used ‘-eth’ suffix (loveth) instead of the ‘-en’ suffix (loven). This became the standard. We now use the ‘-es’ as a verb ending (loves). At the time, these were the standardised versions used in widely read items like the King James Bible. We now have the current standardised versions where ‘-eth’ is no longer used.
  • There has been an increasing use of auxiliary verbs ‘do/have/be’ over time which has changed the word order. For example, ‘not’ is now placed before the verb instead of after- ‘I do not deny’ instead of ‘I deny not’.
  • Shakespeare used contractions such as ‘she’ll/we’ll/there’s/I’m’ and so used to be common.  In the 18th century, some people, like Jonathan Swift, complained about the usage of contractions and deemed them incorrect.  However, in the 19th century, they became more common again (at a point in time they were considered incorrect but are now acceptable again)
  • Prescriptivists may see older forms as ‘more correct’, potentially due to the origins of Latin and its associations with education and scholarship. Currently, Standard English is considered ‘correct’ in upper class/educated circles due to its associations with education but it has features that aren’t found in Latin. In Latin, a sentence can’t end in a preposition but in SE, this is acceptable- “what did you step on?”
  • Double negatives used to be common- Shakespeare sometimes used them in his plays, such as in ‘As You Like It- “I cannot go no further”. Then in the 18th century, prescriptivists decided they were not correct, likely due to Latin’s lack of double negatives. They are still considered incorrect in SE.
  • Language has changed over time and so one form is not ‘more correct’ it is just the new standard.

Is the written form of the language in some way superior to the spoken form? 

  • Grammar usage while speaking often differs from the grammar used in writing. The rules that exist for language may be ignored in speech but would be considered incorrect if something was written down as errors are usually noticed more in the written mode. 
  • The rule is that “is” is used when referring to a singular item- “there is a dog”. The abbreviated form is also used to refer to a singular item- “there’s a dog” and “are” is used when referring to plural items- “there are 12 months”. These are the forms that would be used and considered standard but when speaking, people will often ignore these rules and instead say “there’s five cars over there” even when referring to a plural.
  • When speaking, people often use abbreviated or elliptical forms. In response to someone asking “what are you doing?” the response may be “cooking” instead of the complete sentence “I am cooking” or someone may say “just going to the other room” instead of “I am just going to the other room”.
  • When people write “could/would/should”, it is paired with “have”- “I could have…” but when speaking, people often say “I could of….” which would be seen as wrong when written down but it is usually ignored when spoken. 
  • Spoken language often doesn’t follow all of the standard rules required in writing as people are constantly interacting, making speech generally more informal and less academic. The written form could be seen as more ‘superior’ in terms of grammatical correctness but the constant informal use of spoken language means it is scrutinised less and the rules become less important to others. 

Is nostalgia the root cause of those who cry out against language change?

  • Changes in language, especially those caused by young people, are often viewed as negative. Young people may cause changes in syntax. “So” has always been used to modify an adjective or verb but is now be used to express certainty “she has so done that before”.
  • The meaning of the adverb “totally” has also been extended- was once just used to mean ‘completely’ (“that’s totally ruined”) and is now used to convey confidence in a statement (“she has totally done that before”).
  • “Disinterested” and “uninterested” are often used interchangeably as people use them to mean the same thing. “Disinterested” used to be used to mean neutral and “uninterested” used to mean being bored/lacking interest. The two are now used to mean the same thing but some people may be against this as they were taught that they were two separate words with two separate meanings, even though their meanings can be easily interpreted by the context (if someone said “they look disinterested in the work” you know they mean bored/lacking interest from the context). 
  • “Hopefully” was once considered incorrect when using it at the start of the sentence to modify the whole sentence- “Hopefully, it won’t rain” as it was previously only used as adverbial of manner- “He sat there hopefully”. 
  • These aren’t less efficient forms of communications but people usually don’t like them as they go against what they were taught. 

Was Dean Swift’s proposition of an “Academy” to regulate language use a good idea?

  • 1712- Jonathan Swift said that an official regulation of English should exist in order ‘fix our language forever’. 
  • He disliked certain structures like contractions (“there’s/she’ll) and considered them incorrect. 
  • Language changes to suit the needs of the speaker- such as technological developments requiring new words to refer to them efficiently- “hashtag/spam”.
  • Language changes based on peoples’ experiences- people speak differently according to age/education/region etc and so people pick up different words when speaking to different people. The language can also be used to express someone’s identity. Double negatives may appear in certain slang- “I ain’t done nothing wrong”- but this would be incorrect in Swift’s Academy. 
  • Words are borrowed from other languages (“bizarre/ballet”- French), shortened (“gymnasium-gym”) and blended (“brunch”). 
  • Word order changes so ‘not’ is now placed before the verb- “I do not deny” instead of “I deny not”. 
  • If language was fixed by a set of regulatory rules, there would be a lack of variation and change. This would lead to a lack of diversity between people as language is one of the ways people express themselves and differentiate themselves from others. Language change allows people to change the words and the way we use them to reflect people’s changing lives.

What are the most important reasons that British English has changed over the last 50 years?

The advent of new technologies since the 1960s has urged our language to change in drastic ways. For example, the word ‘television’, now the name for the electronic device invented in the 1920s that became widespread in the 1940s. It comes from the Ancient Greek τῆλε (meaning ‘far’) and the Latin visio (meaning sight). This was abbreviated to ‘TV’ in 1947. More recent slang terms include ‘telly’ and ‘idiot box’. Given that around 80% of the world’s households own a television, it has become well-known enough to warrant alternate terms given to it. As humans become more equal, new words arise to describe those involved in the struggle and its consequences. ‘SJW’ is a pejorative abbreviation for ‘social justice warrior’ (those perceived to aggressively promote socially progressive views) that shifted from a compliment to an insult in 2011 when it was used as an insult on Twitter. This is linked to conservatives and contributes to the idea that language change will always have some negative connotations. Lastly, new trends have emerged due to the development of the internet, with words like ‘meme’ being used to describe them. It comes from a shortening of mimeme, from the Ancient Greek μίμημα (meaning ‘imitated thing’). It denotes a widespread fad or trend that spreads quickly and by means of imitating others. This is applied to typically humorous images that appear on social media.

How and why have words and phrases in the areas of warfare, politics and technology developed?

Often, new ideas are created most frequently in these fields, so new terms must be created, or existing ones changed, to match this progress. In 2016, the word ‘Brexit’ came into circulation as a way of addressing Great Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. The word is a blend of ‘Britain’ and ‘exit’, summing up the events in a simple word that could be wheeled out by the media at any time.

Why have new words and meanings developing over the last 50 years in the British Isles sometimes provoked strong feelings and heated arguments?

There can sometimes be opposition to language change, as certain groups or individuals can feel an attachment to their language and feel as if new developments somehow tarnish what they hold dear. The word ‘selfie’ combines ‘self’ with the suffix ‘-ie’, which some could see as too colloquial or unintelligent. Often words adapted or created by young people are the subject of contention, as concerns about the future generation arise, some believing English could fall into ruin if it isn’t held in check by someone.

Why do users of contemporary British English borrow words and phrases from other dialects and languages?

English as a language owes a lot to settlers from other countries that brought words and expressions from their own languages in the past. The situation is no different today. Now we borrow words from other languages to fill holes in our own, to simply because those are the words used to name them in their country of origin. Words like ‘spaghetti’ and ‘ravioli’ come from Italian, where they are used to name types of pasta, just like in English. Words are taken from Australian Aboriginal languages, like ‘boomerang’ to describe toys or animals that have become more well-known in recent years. Though the old borrowings were used to provide us with the basic fundamentals needed to communicate with one another, more recent ones are fleshing out our language, helping us keep up with globalisation as modern society becomes more international.

How did the “long-standing admiration for Latin” affect the attempts to regulate the English Language?

70% of our words came from Latin

The revival of classic literature introduced new words and classical works were translated into English and if a suitable equivalent did not exist, a new word was created.

Many words were imported from Latin due to its associations with education- genius, apparatus, nausea.

The spelling of words was also influenced by the addition of a silent ‘b’ in words like ‘debt’ to reflect their Latin roots (‘debitum’)

Latin was considered the language of knowledge and education, and there was an importance surrounding the idea of being intelligent. 

The Latin influence on English has been 3-fold:

1ststage= importing Latin words 

                  Mainly related to plants, fruits and food

                  e.g. Wine, pea, mint, milk

                  these words didn’t originally exist in these forms, and have changed over time, but they 

                  came from Latin

2ndstage= Christian Missionaries in the late 6thand 7thcenturies

                   Brought ideas related to religion and the church

                   e.g. minister from ‘monesterium’ and priest from ‘presbyter’

                   many of these words were Greek but entered English through Latin

                   Latin was also the Language of the Catholic Church, which also had a large impact on

                   English

                   With Christianity came more scientific words and concepts of law

                   e.g. custody, prosecute, index, mechanical

3rdstage= revival of classic scholarship in the 16thcentury

                  Some words which came from French were Latinised 

                        e.g. aventure to adventure from the L.adventurus, dette to debt from the L.debitum,

                               langage to language from the L.lingua

                  Native words+ Latin suffixes

                        e.g. Starvation, talkative

                  Greek word+ Latin suffixes

                        e.g. climactic from ‘climax’

                  Latin Prefix+ Native word

                        e.g. interchange, preview, rebirth

                  End proper nouns with latinised adjectives

                        e.g. Shakespeare- Shakespearean

                  Some native nouns have Latin adjectives

                        e.g. Mouth= oral, Home=domestic

Was the fact that English lost many of its endings further evidence of decay?

Older languages depend on highly complicated grammatical inflections to show their grammatical function in a sentence. The number of endings in English has massively dropped over time. This can show the decay of the English Language. 

(inflections=modification of the word to express different grammatical categories e.g. tense)

We have lost genitive inflections. For example, instead of saying The King his crown, we say the King’s crown. This perhaps shows laziness through the loss of the genitive inflection ‘his’.

       -more examples, “it is I, John” instead of I am John and “This is the house of Bill” instead of This is Bill’s house

We have also lost standard infinitive endings. Lots of Germanic words contained an infinitive ending such as -en, for example ‘trinken’. Over times these endings became shorter and shorter and don’t exist in English as much, e.g trinken-drinke-to drink. However, some of these endings have remained, this tends to be seen in less commonly used words, such as the plural of ox being “oxen”. Because this word isn’t used as often as more common words, its infinitive ending has been preserved and hasn’t decayed.

Would need to show a ‘perfect English’ to show its decay as decay carries negative connotations of a change due to corrupt reasons.

Should there not be a fixed “correct” form of every language?

Standard English is defined as the form of the English language which is widely accepted as the usual correct form.

For example, the standard would be “I am Harry”, whereas the non-standard of this would be “I be Harry”

Having a fixed correct form puts prestige on this form and often takes social capital away from the “incorrect” forms, this discourages diversity. Identifying these other forms as “incorrect” are also acts of prescriptivism.

Having “correct” forms of every language could also inhibit language change as prescriptive rules set in the fixed “correct” form would maybe discourage any change. 

          -e.g. “uninterested” means to be not interested, however over time “disinterested” has gained the same meaning. Disinterested used to mean impartial. Many people hold the prescriptive belief that the use of ‘disinterested’ to mean not interested is incorrect.

Are putting prepositions at the ends of sentences and double negatives an example of varying usages or incorrect usages?

Double negatives are created by adding a negation to the verb and to the modifier of the noun (or sometimes to the object of the verb)

          -e.g. “I wont do no work”, “I can’t go nowhere tonight”

Negative concord= where a language uses a double negative but its translation translates to only one negative

          -E.g. In Spanish they may say “there isn’t no problem” which means “there isn’t a problem”, this is the standard way of saying there isn’t a problem (an example of negative concord)

Although saying “there isn’t no problem” is grammatically incorrect, it could be an example of varying usage as language is changing due to globalisation. English is being affected by the people using the language.

Using prepositions at the ends of sentences is not normally accepted as “grammatically correct English”. Some believe it makes you seem uneducated and informal. 

     However nowadays people often end sentences with prepositions

        -e.g. “who is she going to the bar with?”, is more natural than the grammatically correct “with whom is she going to the bar?” 

Although this is technically grammatically incorrect, it makes sense to use the first one as it helps conversation flow more smoothly. Again this shows varying usages because putting prepositions at the ends of some sentences is being forgotten as we move to using perhaps easier ways of speaking.

How and why have these words and phrases developed?

  • Developed due to new technology
  • Features of new technology (“feed” on Instagram etc.)
  • Issues that have arisen from development of new technology (“phishing”)
  • Youth culture and media influences

How has the English Language changed over the last 50 years as a result of changes in society?

Development of Technology:

  •  “Streak”, From Middle English “streke” meaning “stripe”, from Old English “strica” meaning “to spoil”, from Proto-Germanic “strikiz” meaning “line”. Now with development of technology, association has changed in context to mean streak on form of social media, Snapchat. On graph below, peak in 1888 and then in 2018 shows change due to nature of use, suggests being used for different reason and meaning if the usage dropped so significantly and then drastically rose again. To further explore this, we could identify other definitions of the word and look to culture at the time to perhaps predict why it was used, in what context.

Have the new words and new meanings that have emerged in Britain in the last 50 years enriched the language?

Yes and no:

  • Can depend on who’s opinion it is, who is asking the question
  • As the language change is happening, people can tend to be more opposed to it but years later when the words of phrases become wider spread and used more frequently, people can be less critical
  • As Linguists, we are able to analyse and look at language change without having the attitude of being negative or needing to be stopped/ignored
  • Language is constantly evolving and changing, it is a natural process which cannot really be stopped
  • Perhaps not “enriched” as the question states, however has added to the language as it is another meaning of an existing word. New idiolect of younger generations as the “streaks” has developed another meaning than before

Have the processes of amelioration, pejoration, broadening, euphemism, affixing, compounding, blending, borrowing or abbreviation most affected the English Language?

Euphemism – a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

“the jargon has given us ‘downsizing’ as a euphemism for cuts”

late 16th century: from Greek euphēmismos, from euphēmizein ‘use auspicious words’, from eu ‘well’ + phēmē ‘speaking’.

They can usually be used when people are being sarcastic or trying to make light of a serious subject. Other times, a euphemism is simply meant to be funny. 

Example:

“kick the bucket” meaning to die and dates back to at least the 16thCentury. Refers to a kind of yoke which was used to hold pigs by their heels so that they could be slaughtered, particularly used in parts of Norfolk. The derivation may be from Old French “buquet” which means a balance, or the fact that raising of the yoke on a pulley resembled a bucket being lifted from a well.

Can also refer to suicides/old punishments which would force people to stand on a wooden block/bucket with a noose around their neck, which would be kicked away at a moment of their choosing. Kill them

Therefore, euphemisms potentially reveal more about changes in society and society at the time of its origin, rather than change in the language itself. This is because what it refers to still exists in language and is still the original term used for it, but euphemisms can be put in place of original term depending on context or societal taboos. Mainly found in spoken language, less direct and can be informal to use euphemisms but also potentially more polite to use them. 

How can we prove/show that language is changing

Phonetic change in “dark L” vs “light L”

Eg: Talk: Middle English: verb from the Germanic base of tale or tell. Originally pronounced “Tallk” over time evolved to easier to pronounce “Tawk”

Chalk: Old English cealc (also denoting lime), related to Dutch kalk and German Kalk, from Latin calx. Modern forms pronounced “Chawk” – evolved from “Challk”

Walk: Old English wealcan ‘roll, toss’, also ‘wander’, of Germanic origin. The sense ‘move about’, and specifically ‘go about on foot’, arose in Middle English. Originally pronounced “Wallk” but moved to easier pronounciation “Wawk”

This phonetic change shows how we shift our language to be more accessible and easy to use, swapping out the L sound for a softer W.

If we compare one text to another, which aspects or features are consequent of language change

Features – War depictions, death depictions changed greatly over time. From the older depictions (ending around 1700) we see death as a representation of glory and greatness – with war being heroic – largely stemming from roman and norse beliefs of the afterlife and war (e.g ascension to valhalla upon dying in battle) 

Over time a more moral argument emerged about the unethical nature of war, and texts began to treat it as sorrowful and a painful event, destroying lives for material gain.

If language has changed, is it still changing

Yes. Some language has evolved from a need to express emotions and feelings without the help of vocal/facial cues from the person youre speaking to. As such we have seen the emergence of emoticons and emojis in regular speech. Eg. 😊😉🙁😮😙to convey happiness, sly/flirty, sadness, shock, kiss kiss. More continue to be made in recent years

If language is still changing, should it be changing.

Yes, while it is impossible to say that language will ever reach a point where it is “perfect” or “flawless”, language change often happens for a reason. Sometimes it is about cultural awareness in borrowings – E.g Renaissance from French, Allegro/Antipasto from Italian. Sometimes it is about making the language easier to use (see above)

Can also be argued that some language change happens for no reason and therefore adds nothing to language. But neither does it take anything away, and we should not try to repress or stop it.