digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:

Agriculture

Applied sciences

Arts

Belief

Business

Chronology

Culture

Education

Environment

Geography

Health

History

Humanities

Language

Law

Life

Mathematics

Nature

People

Politics

Science

Society

Technology

Not to be confused with language shift.

Language change is variation over time in a language's phonetic, morphological, semantic, syntactic, and other features.

Causes of language change[edit]

  • Economy: Speakers tend to make their utterances as efficient and effective as possible to reach communicative goals. Purposeful speaking therefore involves a trade-off of costs and benefits.
    • the principle of least effort: Speakers especially use economy in their articulation, which tends to result in phonetic reduction of speech forms. See vowel reduction, cluster reduction, lenition, and elision. After some time a change may become widely accepted (it becomes a regular sound change) and may end up treated as a standard. For instance: going to [ˈɡoʊ.ɪŋ.tʊ]gonna [ˈɡɔnə] or [ˈɡʌnə], with examples of both vowel reduction [ʊ] → [ə] and elision [nt] → [n], [oʊ.ɪ] → [ʌ].
  • Analogy: reducing word forms by likening different forms of the word to the root.
  • Language contact: borrowing of words and constructions from foreign languages.
  • The medium of communication.
  • Cultural environment: Groups of speakers will reflect new places, situations, and objects in their language, whether they encounter different people there or not.
  • Migration/Movement: Speakers will change and create languages, such as pidgins and creoles.[1]

Types of language change[edit]

All languages change continuously, and do so in many and varied ways.

Marcel Cohen details various types of language change under the overall headings of the external evolution[2] and internal evolution of languages.[3]

Lexical changes[edit]

The study of lexical changes forms the diachronic portion of the science of onomasiology.

The ongoing influx of new words in the English language (for example) helps make it a rich field for investigation into language change, despite the difficulty of defining precisely and accurately the vocabulary available to speakers of English. Throughout its history English has not only borrowed words from other languages but has re-combined and recycled them to create new meanings, whilst losing some old words.

Dictionary-writers try to keep track of the changes in languages by recording (and, ideally, dating) the appearance in a language of new words, or of new usages for existing words. By the same token, they may tag some words as "archaic" or "obsolete".

Phonetic and phonological changes[edit]

The concept of sound change covers both phonetic and phonological developments.

The sociolinguist William Labov recorded the change in pronunciation in a relatively short period in the American resort of Martha's Vineyard and showed how this resulted from social tensions and processes.[4] Even in the relatively short time that broadcast media have recorded their work, one can observe the difference between the pronunciation of the newsreaders of the 1940s and the 1950s and the pronunciation of today. The greater acceptance and fashionability of regional accents in media may[original research?] also reflect a more democratic, less formal society — compare the widespread adoption of language policies.

The mapping and recording of small-scale phonological changes poses difficulties, especially as the practical technology of sound recording dates only from the 19th century. Written texts provide the main (indirect) evidence of how language sounds have changed over the centuries . But note Ferdinand de Saussure's work on postulating the existence and disappearance of laryngeals in Proto-Indo-European as an example of other methods of detecting/reconstructing sound-changes within historical linguistics.

Spelling changes[edit]

Standardisation of spelling originated relatively recently.[citation needed] Differences in spelling often catch the eye of a reader of a text from a previous century. The pre-print era had fewer literate people: languages lacked fixed systems of orthography, and the handwritten manuscripts that survive often show words spelled according to regional pronunciation and to personal preference.

Semantic changes[edit]

Main article: Semantic change

Semantic changes are shifts in meaning of the existing words. They include:

  • pejoration, in which a term acquires a negative association
  • amelioration, in which a term acquires a positive association
  • widening, in which a term acquires a broader meaning
  • narrowing, in which a term acquires a narrower meaning

The appearance of a new word marks only the beginning of its existence. Once generally adopted as part of the language, the meanings and applications it has for speakers can shift dramatically, to the point of causing misunderstandings. For example, "villain" once meant a peasant or farmhand, but has come to imply a criminal individual in modern English. This exemplifies a word that has undergone pejoration, which means that a negative association has become attached to it. Conversely, other words have undergone amelioration where a more positive meaning prevails. Thus, the word 'wicked' (generally meaning 'evil'), as of 2009 means 'brilliant' in slang or in a colloquial context.

Other ways of semantic change include narrowing and broadening. Narrowing a word semantically limits its alternative meanings. For example the word "girl" once meant 'a young child' and "hound" (Old English hund) referred to any dog, whereas in modern English it demotes a particular type of canid. Examples of words that have been broadened semantically include "dog" (which once referred to a particular breed).

Syntactic change[edit]

Main article: Syntactic change

Syntactic change is the evolution of the syntactic structure of a natural language.

Over time, syntactic change is the greatest modifier of a particular language. Massive changes may occur both in syntax and vocabulary and are attributable to either creolization or relexification.

Sociolinguistics and language change[edit]

The sociolinguist Jennifer Coates, following William Labov, describes linguistic change as occurring in the context of linguistic heterogeneity. She explains that “[l]inguistic change can be said to have taken place when a new linguistic form, used by some sub-group within a speech community, is adopted by other members of that community and accepted as the norm.”[5]

Can and Patton (2010) provide a quantitative analysis of twentieth century Turkish literature using forty novels of forty authors. Using weighted least squares regression and a sliding window approach, they show that, as time passes, words, in terms of both tokens (in text) and types (in vocabulary), have become longer. They indicate that the increase in word lengths with time can be attributed to the government-initiated language “reform” of the 20th century. This reform aimed at replacing foreign words used in Turkish, especially Arabic- and Persian-based words (since they were in majority when the reform was initiated in early 1930s), with newly coined pure Turkish neologisms created by adding suffixes to Turkish word stems (Lewis, 1999).

Can and Patton (2010), based on their observations of the change of a specific word use (more specifically in newer works the preference of ama over fakat, both borrowed from Arabic and meaning 'but', and their inverse usage correlation is statistically significant), also speculate that the word length increase can influence the common word choice preferences of authors.

Quantifying language change[edit]

Altintas, Can, and Patton (2007) introduce a systematic approach to language change quantification by studying unconsciously-used language features in time-separated parallel translations. For this purpose, they use objective style markers such as vocabulary richness and lengths of words, word stems and suffixes, and employ statistical methods to measure their changes over time.

Language shift and social status[edit]

Main article: Language shift

Languages perceived to be "higher status" stabilise or spread at the expense of other languages perceived by their own speakers to be "lower-status".

Historical examples are the early Welsh and Lutheran bible translations, leading to the liturgical languages Welsh and High German thriving today, unlike other Celtic or German variants.[6]

For prehistory, Forster and Renfrew (2011) [7] argue that in some cases there is a correlation of language change with intrusive male Y chromosomes but not with female mtDNA. They then speculate that technological innovation (transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, or from stone to metal tools) or military prowess (as in the abduction of British women by Vikings to Iceland) causes immigration of at least some males, and perceived status change. Then, in mixed-language marriages with these males, prehistoric women would often have chosen to transmit the "higher-status" spouse's language to their children, yielding the language/Y-chromosome correlation seen today.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.llas.ac.uk/resources/gpg/2784
  2. ^ Cohen, Marcel (1975) [1970]. Language: its structure and evolution. Translated by Leonard Muller. London: Souvenir Press (Educational & Academic). pp. 74–98. ISBN 0-285-64779-2. "[...] the shifting movements of languages in light of whatever knowledge is available of the history of humanity." 
  3. ^ Cohen, Marcel (1975) [1970]. Language: its structure and evolution. Translated by Leonard Muller. London: Souvenir Press (Educational & Academic). pp. 98–141. ISBN 0-285-64779-2. "Internal evolution [...] is the passing from one system to another. [...] Internal evolution proceeds progressively, by modification and substitution of details. It is the sum of these details which, at the end of a certain period of time, constitutes a total change." 
  4. ^ William Labov, 1963. "The social motivation of a sound change." Word 19.273-309
  5. ^ Coates, 1992: 169
  6. ^ Barker, Christopher (1588). The Bible in Welsh. London. 
  7. ^ Forster P, Renfrew C; Renfrew (2011). "Mother tongue and Y chromosomes". Science 333 (6048): 1390–1391. Bibcode:2011Sci...333.1390F. doi:10.1126/science.1205331. PMID 21903800. 

References[edit]

Journals
  • Altintas, K.; Can, F.; Patton, J. M. (2007). "Language Change Quantification Using Time-separated Parallel Translations". Literary and Linguistic Computing 22 (4): 375–393. doi:10.1093/llc/fqm026. 
  • Can, F.; Patton, J. M. (2010). "Change of Word Characteristics in 20th Century Turkish Literature: A Statistical Analysis". Journal of Quantitative Linguistics 17 (3): 167–190. doi:10.1080/09296174.2010.485444. 
Books
Other

External links[edit]

  • Sounds Familiar? The British Library website provides audio examples of changing accents and dialects from across the UK.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_change — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

12746 news items

 
Investing.com
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:33:45 -0700

Dollar stayed in range against European majors but strengthened further against commodity currencies. St. Louis Fed president James Bullard said that FOMC could drop the pledge to keep rate lows for considerable time next month. He noted that in ...
 
Coast News
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:41:15 -0700

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Planning Commission on Thursday will consider recommending the Council change the language in its zoning code that would close one of the biggest loopholes developers have used for so-called “density bonus” projects.

Chron.com

Barron's (blog)
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:03:34 -0700

Another camp, including RBC, sees the Fed waiting until next month for a language change. Pat Maldari, senior fixed-income investment specialist at Aberdeen Asset Management, notes that the Fed's bond-buying program is scheduled to end next month, ...
 
Barron's (blog)
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:26:15 -0700

The conventional wisdom is that the Federal Reserve is going to change the “considerable time” language in its policy statement when it meets later this week, but what language will the Fed put in its place? As a reminder, here's the paragraph in ...

Slate Magazine (blog)

Slate Magazine (blog)
Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:26:05 -0700

Language change doesn't happen according to a planned direction; it meanders throughout various possible languages. Your earlier books are the kind of thing that I think get people into linguistics, which isn't necessarily what one would expect from a ...
 
Bloomberg
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:43:31 -0700

The dollar rose to a six-year high versus the yen amid speculation on whether the Federal Reserve will change its pledge in a policy statement to keep interest rates low for a “considerable time.” The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index dropped briefly after a ...

Business Insider

Business Insider
Sat, 06 Sep 2014 07:27:31 -0700

AMELIA ISLAND Fla (Reuters) - Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank and the loan dissenter at the Fed's July policy meeting, on Saturday continued his push for the U.S. central bank to change its language on interest rate ...
 
Fillmore County Journal
Sun, 28 Sep 2014 12:41:15 -0700

No action was taken and no specific proposed language change was drafted. The discussion had to do with an existing structure that does not conform with a required setback. If a non conforming structure is destroyed should the property owner be allowed ...
Loading

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!