English Language Change Theories

  • Created by: Katieeeex
  • Created on: 05-02-22 10:40
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  • Language Change Theory
    • Key Basics
      • Standardisation
        • write about as a process
      • Informalisation
        • Sharon Goodman
        • language which was once only used in personal relationships is now used in wider contexts
      • Prescriptivism and Descriptivism
        • Prescriptivism - enforcing of rule or method
        • Descriptivism  is a nonjudgement-al approach that focuses on how language is actually used
      • Political correctness
        • how does what is acceptable at the time affect language choices?
    • Ease and Economy
      • Language changes over time to what is easier
      • Guy Deutscher
        • We use 'economy' - save effort, which leads to pronunciation shortcuts
    • Jean Aitchison
      • Stages in language change
        • 1. potential stage
          • There is a reason for a new word to be accepted for use
        • 2. implementation
          • New word or meaning is in use, probably by a small language group or community
        • 3. diffusion
          • New usage spreads to wider use - everyone who is likely to pick up the new language  has done so
        • 4. codification
          • New lexis formalised by recording it in the dictionary
      • Metaphors against prescriptivism
        • Crumbling castle: new words and phrases are an attack on this castle
        • Damp spoon: people find it distasteful when there are new words / structures / pronunciation
        • Infectious disease: changes are 'caught' from other people and places - links to social bonding theory
    • Social bonding theory
      • William Labov
        • Parts of language group may pronounce certain vowel of a certain word differently
          • Given time the change affects all words with that vowel so it becomes a regular linguistic sound change
    • Style-to-style theory
      • Explains change from one register, style or variety borrowing from another - seen as an inevitable result of language change
    • Substratum theory
      • focuses on language of a sub-cultured or muted group
        • Change comes about through language contact
          • In the past, this would have been mainly trade and invasion, but now is usually social networking and immigration
    • Bailey's wave model
      • Language spreads like ripples on water - further away less likely to pick up the language
        • 'Distance' can be temporal, social, or geographical
    • David Crystal's tide metaphor
      • Focuses on longevity of change - language as a tide, and some words stay whilst others fall out of fashion
    • Random fluctuation
      • some words occur from random incidents
        • Paul Postal - unpredictable so language changes randomly
        • Charles Hockett - random mistakes lead to change ie. predictive text
    • Functional theory
      • new words arise when there is space for them
        • Halliday -  change according to needs of its users ie. technologies
    • John Humphries - grammar should be taught in school so we all use standard English
    • Johnathon Swift: language decays due to  contractions, monosyllabic verbs, etc. Wanted to return to Shakespearean English
    • Samuel Johnson: 1755 dictionary


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