Language Change 2

  • Created by: iona_Cb
  • Created on: 22-02-22 08:58

External Factors

Changes in social structure:

  • Norman Conquest -> feudal system. Began to decline in the 15th century, but clear class divisions remained
  • Industrial Revolution -> urbanisation & middle class
  • Elementary Education Act (1870) -> compulsory education using Standard English
  • The emergence of the teenager (1950s) -> youth identity [Eckert - movers & shakers]

Major events:

  • The World Wars led to more international contact and hence lexical borrowings, along with post-war affluence leading to more travel
  • Communication technologies -> rapid global communication
  • Covid-19

David Crystal says that attitudes against texting reflect the belief that the printing ress was the 'invention of the devil', and that texting has negligible long-term effects on language use.

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Pragmatic Change

Increase in politeness:

  • Loss of 'thou' and 'thee'
  • Avoiding 'you' (e.g. passive voice, naming strategies)
  • More euphemism and politically correct terms


  • The 'mask' of social media makes communication more rude than unmediated speech
  • Norman Fairclough -> a restructuring of the boundaries between public and private orders of discours and between speech and writing has led to more colloquial language use
    • First names used in transactional communication
    • Synthetic personalisation
    • Parasocial relationships
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Language Planning

Deliberate external intervention can lead to language change:

  • Microlevel interventions, e.g. banning certain slang forms in a school
  • Macrolevel interventions, e.g. a government adopting or changing its official language (Guyana)
  • Samuel Johnson standardising the lexicon and spelling
  • UK National Curriculum prescribing Standard English

Typically those who hold authority impose language planning, with political and/or ideological motivations. Language planning is more about social, political, and economic factors than about language.

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Internal Factors

Users' mental and physical needs and abilities lead to internal language change

  • Functionalism posits that change is not random, but tends to happen where there are some inherent weaknesses in the language
  • Creating a streamlined and efficient language is the major motivation behind language change ('hnecca' -> 'head', 'andswarian' -> 'to answer')

Regularisation leads to changes such as most plurals using the '-s' suffix, and '-ed' used for past tense verbs

  • New verbs ('googled') have these regularised endings
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Models of How Change Spreads

Charles Hockett - errors are passed on to other users ('pwned')

  • Much change is not driven by random chance, or language would end up in chaos. Change tends to happen in a organised and controlled fashion

Jean Aitchinson (2013) - S-curve

  • Change starts in a small way, before rapidly spreading and eventually slackening off. This leads to overlapping features (e.g. Shakespeare -> 'thinkst thou?' and 'dost thou think?')

Wave model

  • New forms start at a centre and ripple out to users further and futher away. As they spread out, they become weaker
  • Geographic distance and social factors determine how long a change takes to reach an individual
  • e.g. th-fronting: London -> Bristol _> Glasgow -> ...
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Attitudes to Language Change

Normal Fairclough uses Critical Discourse Analyis and says that 'language is centrally involved in power, and struggles for power'

Deborah Cameron says that people with conservative views use criticisms of 'grammar' to disguise more broadly attitudes against disorder, change, fragmentation, anarchy, and lawlessness

Jean Aitcheson (1996) - lecture 'A Web of Worries'

  • Noted three major views seen in attitudes to language change - 'damp spoon syndrome' (language change is lazy behaviour), 'crumbling castle' (language is a listed building), and 'infectious disease' (language change is a disease)

David Crystal said that 'language is a tidal flow', constantlly shifting whilst retaining some form of uniformity and pattern, neither for the worse nor for the better

Donald Mackinnon - personal, educational, political, or social assumptions lurk behind the following opposing attitudes to language change: correct or incorrect, pleasant or ugly, socially acceptable or socially unacceptable, morally acceptable or morally unacceptably, and useful or useless.

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English as a Global Language

Native English speakers use English as an L1 or first language

  • English has around 300 million native speakers, compared to Mandarin's 800 million and Spanish's 400 million

Many other countries use English, often as one of many official languages

  • Around half of the world's population is bilingual
  • David Crystal estimates that nearly one in four people is fluent or competent in English

English is the international language of science, business, air traffic control, and the internet, mainly due to colonisation

  • After the fall of the British Empire, English remained useful as a lingua franca
  • It continues to hold high political and economic influence
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Models of Global English

  • Strevens made a map of English in 1980 illustrating English's dominance along with the seperation of British and American English. It recognises variation in English nationally, for functional and geographical reasons. It is outdated, being made before social media, does not recognise intranational variations (e.g. through class, age, gender, race), is only geographic and not chronological, and implies a superior importance for American and British English
  • Kachru developed his 'circles of English' model in 1992, illustrating a norm-providing inner circle, a norm-developing outer circle, and a norm-dependent expanding circle. It acknowledges English' various functions, validates 'outer circle' varieties as independent Englishes, and shows how varieties influence one another. It is outdated, not acknowledging the internet, and gives very broad designations. It does not recognise that geography is not the sole determiner of language use, and uses elitist terminology
  • McArthur's 1987 circle of World Englishes places 'World Standard English' at its centre, from which all other varieties are derived. Then, there is a layer of regional varieties, both standard and standardising, then varieties within these. It is detailed and shows the process of change, but doesn't show the complexities of multilingualism, and is outdated.
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Canadian English

Canadian Engish has aspects of both American and British English, along with French influence

  • Spelling -> British 'our' and 're' endings and double consonants when adding suffixes, but American 'ize' endings
  • Phonology -> tendency towards American pronunciations, but distinctive vowel pronunciation
  • Lexis -> trend toward American vocabulary, but some specifically Canadian terms ('washroom', 'runners', 'grade one')
  • Grammar -> 'ah well' at the beginning of sentences, 'eh' as a tag, 'yiz' or 'youse' as a second person pronoun, America past tense formations of verbs
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Indian English

The British East India Company led to British control over government, law, and education, before India saw independence from Britain in 1947. english is still used and many see it as a symbol of personal identity, and it is embedded into Indian life and culture.

  • Phonology -> syllable-timed rather than stress-timed, little distinction between /v/, /b/, and /w/
  • Lexis -> orrowing from native Indian languages ('crore', 'lakh', 'achaa', 'bas', 'yaar', 'wallah'). Remember 'updation (from English)', 'kirana' (from Hindi), and 'shishya' (from Sanskrit)
  • Grammar -> progressive aspect used with stative verbs, wh- questions made without inversion, arbitrary use of articles, literal translations from local languages, 'no' as a tag
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Shneider's Dynamic Model

Schneider's model links language integration to stages of the colonial process

  • Foundation -> tension between settlers and indigenous groups, and a bilingual community
  • Exonormative stabilisation -> English begins to have more influence, and two varieties co-exist (the settler stand and the indigenous group strand). Speakers use external norms of English, but local vocablary begins to be incorporated, code-switching occurs, and English starts to be seen as an asset
  • Nativisation -> a new identity is established as there is increasing pressure on indigenous speakers to acquire English. There are significant changes to the phonology, lexis, and grammar of English
  • Endonormative stabilistion - the new variety becomes accepted as the local norm, and there is a move towards linguistic homogeneity. Speakers look to their own usage to determine norms, and ethnic boundaries are redefined for indigenous groups. This can take centuries
  • Differentiation -> The new variety reflects local culture and identity, and more local varieties of English develop, perhaps as groups seek to reestablish their ethnic heritage
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English as a Lingua Franca

Jennifer Jenkins (2006) gave five features of English as a Lingua Franca:

  • It is used by speakers of different languages to aid communication
  • It is a functional communcation and tool, so blending with other languages is not seen as significant
  • It may include Standard English and features of local varieties of English
  • Linguistic accomodation and code-switiching are seen as useful strategies
  • Users may have high or low proficiency in English
  • Noticed a bias for 'correct'/standard forms of language. She said speakers should have a choice about the forms they use, and that standard, native forms are unecessary for most of the world's English speakers

Barbara Seidlhofer (2011) noted the following features: dropping third person present tense '-s', interchangeable relative pronouns, omission of definite and indefinite articles, use of 'isn't it?' or 'no?' as tags rather than 'shouldn't they?', inserting redundant prepositions, overusing verbs of high semantic generality, overdoing explicitness, pluralisation of non-count nouns

Phillipson (1992) argued that the spread of global languages leads to other languages losing prestige or dying out.

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Language Contact

Language contact leads to mixed varieties of English, such as Spanglish, Franglais, and Tex-Mex. Languages borrow words from others, have changes in phonology and grammar, and pidgins and creoles can be created

There are three types of contact:

  • Superstratum - a more powerful group influences the language of a less powerful group
  • Substratum - a less powerful group influences the language of a more powerful group
  • Adstratum - there is no dominant language

The conecptual metaphor of 'English is a scavenger' can be used (e.g. MLE, Bradford Asian English, borrowings from other languages)

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Language Endangerment and Death

Ethnologue estimates between 5 and 6 thousand world languages, a number which is rapidly decreasing

  • Nettle and Romaine (2000) - 90% of the world's languages are expected to disappear by 2100
  • 96% of world languages are spoken by just 4% of  of the population, with a small language of languages accounting for the languages of the vast majority of the world's population

Larry Trask (1994) said that languages die when no-one speaks them anymore, through natural causes or when it is killed by some more powerful neighbour. People abandon their language in favour of another seen as more prestigious or useful

  • Global languages increase international communication and shared understanding, and helps to create advances in science, education, and politics. Organisations such as the UN and WHO depend on global languages for efficient communication
  • This will impact on less powerful languages and on cultural identity
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