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PDF From Old English to Standard English: A Course Book in Language Variation Across Time

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Social groups adopt distinctive norms of dress, adornment, gesture and so forth; language is part of the package. Linguistic distinctiveness can be achieved through vocabulary slang or jargon , pronunciation usually via exaggeration of some variants already available in the environment , morphological processes, syntactic constructions, and so on. Natural processes in usage. Rapid or casual speech naturally produces processes such as assimilation , dissimilation , syncope and apocope.

Through repetition, particular cases may become conventionalized, and therefore produced even in slower or more careful speech. Word meaning change in a similar way, through conventionalization of processes like metaphor and metonymy. Some linguists distinguish between internal and external sources of language change, with "internal" sources of change being those that occur within a single languistic community, and contact phenomena being the main examples of an external source of change.

Darwin himself, in developing the concept of evolution of species via natural selection, made an analogy to the evolution of languages. For the analogy to hold, we need a pool of individuals with variable traits, a process of replication creating new individuals whose traits depend on those of their "parents", and a set of environmental processes that result in differential success in replication for different traits.

We can cast each of the just-listed types of language change in such a framework. For example, in child language acquisition, different grammatical or different lexical patterns may be more or less easily learnable, resulting in better replication for grammatical or lexical variants that are "fitter" in this sense.

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Early Modern English

For one thing, linguistic traits can be acquired throughout one's life from many different sources, although intitial acquisition and to a lesser extent adolescence seem to be crucial stages. Acquired linguistic traits can also be passed on to others. One consequence is that linguistic history need not have the form of a tree , with languages splitting but never rejoining, whereas genetic evolution is largely constrained to have a tree-like form despite the possibility of transfer of genetic material across species boundaries by viral infection and so on.

However, as a practical matter, the assumption that linguistic history is a sort of tree structure has been found to be a good working approximation. In particular, the basic sound structure and morphology of languages usually seems to "descend" via a tree-structured graph of inheritance, with regular, lawful relationships between the patterns of "parent" and "child" languages. All aspects of language change, and a great deal is know about general mechanisms and historical details of changes at all levels of linguistic analysis. However, a special and conspicuous success has been achieved in modeling changes in phonological systems, traditionally called sound change.

In the cases where we have access to several historical stages -- for instance, the development of the modern Romance Languages from Latin -- these sound changes are remarkably regular. Techniques developed in such cases permit us to reconstruct the sound system -- and some of the vocabulary -- of unattested parent languages from information about daughter languages. In some cases, an old sound becomes a new sound across the board. Such a change occurred in Hawai'ian, in that all the " t " sounds in an older form of the language became " k "s: at the time Europeans encountered Hawai'ian, there were no " t "s in it at all, though the closely related languages Tahitian, Samoan, Tongan and Maori all have " t "s.

At that time, there was a length distinction in the English vowels, and the Great Vowel Shift altered the position of all the long vowels, in a giant rotation. In the following chart, the words are located where their vowel used to be pronounced -- where they are pronounced today is indicated by the arrows. In other cases, a sound change may be "conditioned" so as to apply in certain kinds of environments and not in others. For example, it's very common for tongue-tip "coronal" consonants to become palatal when they are followed by high front vowels.

Another dimension along which we can look at sound change is by classifying changes according to the particular process involved. Assimilation, or the influence of one sound on an adjacent sound, is perhaps the most pervasive process.

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Palatalization is a kind of assimilation. In contrast to assimilation, dissimilation, metathesis, and haplology tend to occur more sporadically, i.

The English Language In 24 Accents

Dissimilation involves a change in one of two 'same' sounds that are adjacent or almost adjacent in a particular word such that they are no longer the same. Thus the first "l" in English colonel is changed to an "r", and the word is pronounced like "kernel". Metathesis involves the change in order of two adjacent sounds. Already by the time of Old English, there were two forms of the word for "ask": ascian and acsian. We don't know which form was metathesized from the other, but we do know that ascian won out in the standard language.

Haplology is similar to dissimilation, because it involves getting rid of similar neighboring sounds, but this time, one sound is simply dropped out rather than being changed to a different sound.

File:English chancery hand 1418.png

An example is the pronunciation of Modern English probably as prob'ly. Other sound change processes are merger, split, loss, syncope, apocope, prothesis, and epenthesis. Merger and split can be seen as the mirror image of each other. A merger that is currently expanding over much of the United States is the merger between "short o" and "long open o".

The following table contains examples of words that you probably pronounce differently if you are from the Philadelphia - New York - New England area, or if you are from the South. If you are from Canada, the American Midwest, or from California, you probably find that the vowels in these pairs sound the same, rather than different.

If this is the case, you have a merger here.

Linguistics -- Language Change and Historical Reconstruction

Short "o". Splits are rarer than mergers, and usually arise when a formerly conditioned alternation loses the environment that provided the original conditioning, and the previously conditioned alternation becomes two independent sounds that contrast with each other. Syncope and apocope are the loss of medial and final sounds respectively.

However, the impact of Latin on English was relatively minor until the Norman Conquest in and the development of Middle English roughly The language of the church was Latin, while the language of government, the law, and business was Latin or Anglo-French. The linguist Suzanne Kemmer has a page on her Words in English website that includes dozens of loanwords borrowed from French and ultimately Latin during the Middle English period. Here are some of them, broken down into categories, and using modern spellings:. Culture : art , dance , painting , sculpture.

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During the early modern period , according to Kemmer, English got even more words of Latin origin, including agile , abdomen , anatomy , area , capsule , compensate , dexterity , excavate , expensive , fictitious , gradual , habitual , insane , janitor , meditate , notorious , orbit , peninsula , physician , superintendent , ultimate , and vindicate. And during the modern period from to the present day , she writes, English has continued to get words from Latin, directly or via French.

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Here are some French examples she cites: ballet , bouillabaise , cabernet , cachet , champagne , chic , cognac , corsage , faux pas , quiche , rouge , sachet , salon , saloon , sangfroid , and savoir faire. Even among the most frequently used words in modern English, not far short of 50 percent have come into the language from French or Latin. You can help. Summary Description English chancery hand Author Unknown scribe.


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