Ling 101 4/15/2008 Satoshi Tomioka Language Change Through Time Language always changes, no matter what, and no matter how much effort is put in to ‘preserve’ the language. Q: W hy does language change? A: W e don’t know why! Sometimes, the influence of other languages triggers some change, but without such influence, language still changes. Q: W hich aspects of language change, and which ones don’t? A: Practically every aspect of language changes; phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and lexicon. They all change. 1. Sound Change (Phonological Change) Properties of Sound Change (1) Sound change is robust. In other words, once sound change happens, all the words which contain the sound and satisfy the condition must be affected. (2) Sound change never target sounds individually. The target is always phonological features. Case Study I: Grimm’s Law (Indo)-European Languages proto-Romance proto-Germanic proto-Slavic Proto-Celtic French, Italian German, English Russian, Czezh, W elsh, Spanish, etc. Dutch, etc. Bulgalian, etc. Breton, etc ‘Proto-X’ means the ancestor language of the X-group of languages. In Proto-Germanic, there was a massive sound change at some point. before after before after [p] 6 [f] [b] 6 [p] [t] 6 [ 2] [d] 6 [t] [k] 6 [x]/[h] [g] 6 [k] Note: [x] is a voiceless velar fricative that we learned in the German exercise in phonology. One important consequence: This sound change, discovered by Grimm, only took place in Proto-Germanic language. Therefore, there is no effects of this change (even today) in non-Germanic European languages. If you look at the change, you notice that it is not arbitrary. First set: Voiceless stops become voiceless fricatives. Second set: Voiced stops become voiceless stops. These look suspiciously similar to our phonological rules! Case Study II: Vowel Shortening and Great Vowel Shift in English Old English (7 th C ~ 1,100) Representative W riting Beowulf Middle English (1,100 ~ 1,450/1,500) Some time in the early part of Middle English, Vowel Shortening took place. Representative W riting The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer Some time between 1,400 and 1,600, Great Vowel Shift took place. Modern English (1,500 ~ now) Vowel Shortening: Shorten the stressed vowel in a word which has more than one morpheme. Great Vowel Shift ( the diacritic ‘ : ’ means the vowel is long) Important: Great Vowel Shift only affected long vowels. Short ones (= the result of Vowel Shortening, which took place prior to the Shift) were not affected. “divine” [dIvajn] “divinity” [dIvInIti] “profound” [profawnd] “profundity”[profUndIti] “serene” [s erin] “serenity” [s ere nIti] Language Change Through Time - Part II 1. Lexical Change The most sensitive to changes in society. 1.1. Borrowing from Other Languages During the French rule of Great Britain, so many words were imported from French. E.g. parliament, government, royal, nation, judge, crime, religion, mercy, saint, money, estate, value, beef, pork, mutton. Q: W hat kind of words were imported? 1.2. New W ords W hen society changes, there is sometimes need to create new words to match the change. Nowadays, technological development often drives this need. Recently added words: to xerox, kleenex, (jumbo)jet, to email, internet, e-X. 1.3. Loss of W ords Some words are lost. They are sometimes replaced by some other words. 1.4. Lexical Semantic Change Some words are used differently from before. Broadening of meaning Holiday - originally meant ‘holy day’, but it could be any day on which we don’t have to work, regardless of religious significance. Narrowing of meaning Meat - originally meant ‘food’, but it is not a particular kind of food. Shift of meaning Hopefully: Hopefully Rick is going to graduate this spring. W ho is hoping? Other instances of shift of meaning: terribly, cool, gay 2. Morphological Change Old English had more Case distinctions than Modern English does. (From F & R, p. 457) In other words, OE was a lot like German! In Modern English, dative case is basically lost. Its function is now taken care of by a prepositional phrase ‘to NP’. The only remnants of Case distinctions in English are found in its pronoun system (I vs. me, he vs. him, etc.) 3. Syntactic Change OE had a lot more word order freedom than Md English. Q: Is there any reason why this was the case? Other differences in OE: A: In question formations, the ordinary verbs were placed before the subjects. (Again, it was a lot like German or other Germanic languages.) B: Some forms of negation had two parts: one preceding the verb and the other following it. (Double negation is not grammatical in Standard Modern English).
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