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A Level English Language Essay

1669 words - 7 pages


Using suitable examples, describe and comment upon some of the reasons for language change.

Language changes, as do all things in the living world, as language reflects and affects the society which uses it. The mechanics of language change show language as a system with larger and larger scale trends, which allows us to examine the conditions necessary for change.

The process of change occurs gradually, and the rate of this change does conform to a pattern. For instance, if you get an influx of foreign words, few people use them, and they spread slowly until people have become familiar with them. When they have, the word usage stabilizes.

Another factor affecting ...view middle of the document...

In response to this the younger inhabitants of the island were changing their pronunciation towards that used by the elderly inhabitants. Labov called this 'an unconscious gesture of solidarity', to prevent their identity from changing due to the unwanted influx of tourists. Labov called this 'change from below', because the younger inhabitants of the island were changing their speech to emulate those from a lower social class.

There are many utterances in use today that lie on the borders of comprehensibility. For instance, the sentence Did she not get the dress then? almost conforms to linguistic rules but contains many grammatical errors. These errors indicate the reason why there is a constant, ongoing language change.

The lexicon of a language has a great effect on language change, as new lexical items are constantly being added, and those words which are no longer needed are discarded. Compounding is one of these processes. This occurs when two words are bound together to form a single new word, whose meaning can differ from the original. For example railway and railroad.

Derivation is another way in which new lexical items are added to a language. For instance, the word parent which normally functions as a noun is adapted to use as a verb. It has now been given a participle form and expressed as parenting. The word visual, which is mainly used as an adjective, has gained an additional function as the verb visualise, created by derivation.

Foreign influences constantly change the lexicon of a language. The English language contains many words which have been 'borrowed' at various stages of its history. A recent one would be the example parenting, which is a word commonly used in America, but due to our close links with the country via television, we have now 'adopted' this word.

Historical evidence shows that during invasions the lexicon of a language changes constantly. There are many reasons for this. The native inhabitants of Britain were Celts, but they were driven out by the German invaders. Now only place names and a handful of words remain to remind us that the Celts were once the native inhabitants, for example ass, bannock, and binn are Celtic words that were absorbed into the English language.

The Scandinavian invasion in 851AD caused a fusion of both Anglo-Saxon and Danish cultures. Place names ending in -by such as Whitby and Derby were all imported by the Scandinavians. The vast number of ordinary terms adopted from Scandinavian compared with the relatively few technical terms shows that there was an easy settlement between the two nations.

Another foreign influence on language was the Norman conquest of 1066AD The Normans formed the upper class and therefore created a whole range of lexical items. Examples of these are crown, state, government, sovereign, country, power, and chancellor.

Military matters were taken over by the French and so most of the Anglo-Saxon terms were displaced by the French. The...

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