Evolving English

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					               Evolving English
                          HTAV Conference, July 2011
                          Alexis Watson
                          Catherine Jones
                          Mentone Girls’ Secondary College

‘Language, never forget, is more fashion than science, and matters or
usage, spelling, and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines’.

                                - Bill Bryson, Mother Tongue
          English is like a Revolving Door...

It readily admits                      …but
new members...                      discards or
      yuppie                          rejects
       blog                           others.
       LOL                         ‘THOU hast made
       d’oh                         me, And shall thy
                                     worke decay?’
                                     – John Donne
Old English – Modern English

I bet your students can’t read this....

  wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
  mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
  fen ond fæsten; fifelcynnes eard
  wonsæli wer weardode hwile
  siþðan him Scyppend forscrifen hæfde.

  An Extract from Beowulf: the Description of the Monster Grendel
But they could certainly read this...

                 HEY M8 HOWS IT
                 GOIN? C U AT
                 DAVES 2MOZ?
                 PARTY SHOULD B
                 XLNT. AT WRK –
                 GOIN HOME 4 DNR.
                 PLS CALL ME L8R.
 Evolving English
    The English Language has changed through the
    following processes:
Semantic Shift
Broadening                 Compounding
Narrowing                  Affixation
Shifts                     Conversion
Connotations – elevated    Backformation
(positive); deteriorated   Borrowing
(negative)                 Commonisation
Taboo Words                Acronyms
Euphemisms                 Abbreviations
             …And these can be taught in the
             National History Curriculum
 According to the Asia Education Foundation, ‘Knowledge of language
    and word origins is not only interesting in its own right, but it extends
    students’ knowledge of vocabulary and spelling’ (literacy)
   The National Curriculum for English does investigate the ‘influence and
    impact that the English Language has had on other languages or
    dialects and how English has been influenced in return’.
   The National Curriculum for English addresses the impact of the
    ‘globalisation’ of English, particularly at Year 7, 8 and 9.
   The History of the English Language can be investigated in the National
    History Curriculum in the ‘Depth Studies’.
   There is also scope for an integrated curriculum i.e. migration
         Evolving English

 Currently there are 6000 different languages in the world
  being heard, spoken, signed, seen, read and written.
 There are also thousands more that were used in the
  past that are classified as ‘dead’ and are no longer
 These languages have been grouped into ‘families’. To
  be grouped together, the languages must have
  similarities or be traced to a common ancestor.
           Evolving English

 English belongs to one of the biggest language ‘families’ called the
    Indo-European family.
   Other languages in this family include Greek, French, Gaelic,
    German and Spanish. They all share an earlier common language
    called Proto-Indo-European or PIE for short.
   Some linguists believe that PIE was spoken as far back as 4000
    BC, yet its origin is unsure with Russia, India and Turkey as
   Nevertheless, it spread as people migrated and settled in different
    parts of the globe.
   The way each group of people spoke slowly began to change and
    what was PIE had transformed itself into hundreds of different
              Year 7 History - Overview

  ‘The Year 7 curriculum provides a study of history from the time of the earliest
   human communities to the end of the ancient period. It was a period defined
   by the development of cultural practices and organised societies.’
   Overview content for the ancient world (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece,
   Rome, India, China and the Maya) includes the following:
1. the theory that people moved out of Africa around 60 000 BCE and migrated
   to other parts of world, including Australia
2. the evidence for the emergence and establishment of ancient societies
   (including art, iconography, writing tools and pottery)
3. key features of ancient societies (farming, trade, social classes, religion, rule
   of law)
        The Ancient World

Key Inquiry Questions:
‣   How do we know about the ancient past?
‣   Why and where did the earliest societies
‣   What emerged as the defining characteristics
    of ancient societies?
‣   What have been the legacies of ancient
          Year 7 History

   Depth Studies are:
1. Investigating the Ancient Past
2. The Mediterranean World
3. The Asian World

  Each of the depth studies has their own ‘Historical
  Knowledge and Understanding’ – refer to
  www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for more details.
         1. Investigating the Ancient Past

The First Alphabets
 The earliest form of writing came from Iraq in
  approximately 4000BC.
 It was called cuneiform meaning ‘wedge shaped’.
 Wedges were pressed into a soft clay, thus making
  symbols or signs to represent words and sounds.
 There were 1500 different combinations – compare this to
  our alphabet of 26 letters today!
         2. The Mediterranean World - Egypt

The First Alphabets
 Egyptians carved or drew pictures to represent sounds or
 This form of writing was known as ‘hieroglyphics’, meaning
  ‘holy writing’ as it was mainly holy priests who used the
 In the writing systems like cuneiform and hieroglyphics,
  some of the symbols or signs represented sounds, whilst
  others stood for ideas or whole words. They could also be
           The First Alphabets

 It was the Phoenicians who are said to have developed
    the first actual alphabet.
   They lived north of Egypt near Lebanon and Syria.
   The first two letters were ‘aleph’ and ‘beth’. Aleph + beth
    = Alphabet!
   The Phoenician alphabet had 22 letters – all consonants.
   The first bible – written in ancient Hebrew, was based on
    the Phoenician alphabet.
         The First Alphabets

 The Phoenician alphabet was also adopted by the
  ancient Greeks. In 1000BC they created additional letters
 The ancient Greek alphabet turned into the alphabet for
  Russian, Bulgarian and additional languages in this area
  of the globe.
 The Greek alphabet was adopted and changed by the
  Etruscans in Italy who were an ancient people living in
  Italy before the Romans.
          The First Alphabets

 The Romans adapted the alphabet used by the
  Etruscans, using it for their language – Latin!
 It is this alphabet which we use to write English as well as
  French, Spanish and Italian and..........
 It is the most widely used alphabet in the world.
             3. The Asian World - China

 The father of Chinese writing is Ts’ang Chieh.
 The writing of China began with pictures and then evolved into symbols.
 The earliest inscriptions (scratched on bones and tortoise shells) were made in
  the Shang-Yin Dynasty by astrologers for the purposes of divination (the
  practice of seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural
 ‘By the beginning of the Christian era a highly developed script had been
  formed which has hardly changed’.
 Chinese calligraphers – emperors, court and government officials (highly
 Chinese language – mainly monosyllabic. Each character represents a whole
  word (we use a number of signs or letters to make words).
              Year 8 History - Overview
   ‘The Year 8 Curriculum provides a study of history from the end of the ancient
   period to the beginning of the modern period. This was when major civilisations
   around the world came into contact with each other. Social, economic, religious
   and political beliefs were often challenged and significantly changed.’
   Overview content for the ancient to modern world (Byzantine, Celtic, Anglo-
   Saxon, Viking, Ottoman, Khmer, Mongols, Yuan and Ming dynasties, Aztec,
   Inca) includes the following:
1. the transformation of the Roman world and the spread of Christianity and Islam

2. key features of the medieval world (feudalism, trade routes, voyages of
   discovery, contact and conflict)
3. the emergence of ideas about the world and the place of people in it by the
   end of the period (such as the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution and the
           The Ancient to the Modern World

Key Inquiry Questions:
‣   How did societies change from the end of the ancient
    period to the beginning of the modern age?
‣   What key beliefs and values emerged and how did they
    influence societies?
‣   What were the causes and effects of contact between
    societies in this period?
‣   What significant people, groups and ideas from this
    period have influenced the world today?
         Year 8 History

Depth Studies are:
1. The Western and Islamic Worlds
2. The Asia-Pacific World
3. Expanding Contacts

  Each of the depth studies has their own ‘Historical
  Knowledge and Understanding’ – refer to
  www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for more details.
          1. The Western and Islamic World –
                  The Vikings

 In terms of languages, English isn’t very old. Starting in
  England, it began approximately 1500 years ago.
 Prior to English, the people of the United Kingdom
  (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) spoke Celtic
 West Germanic invaders from Jutland and southern
  Denmark began populating the British Isles in the fifth and
  sixth centuries A.D.
 The three groups of invaders were Angles, Saxons, and
  Jutes, together known as Anglo-Saxons.
Invasion of the Angles, Jutes and Saxons

                                           Viking Invasions
           1. The Western and Islamic World –
           The Vikings
 The words England and English come from the word Angle.
  The people spoke a mutual language that is called Old English.
 The Anglo-Saxons brought their own alphabet with them called
  runes, which is what Old English is written in!
 Christian monks from Ireland and other parts of Europe also
  arrived in ‘England’.
 They each wrote and spoke in Latin, thus using the Roman
  alphabet. Over time they began to speak Old English / Anglo
  Saxon too, but they used the Roman alphabet as it was much
  easier to use than runes.
         1. The Western and Islamic World –
         The Vikings
 The Vikings invaded England in the 9th and 10th
 The language they spoke, Old Norse, also used
 Monks continued to use the Roman alphabet to write
  Old English.
 About half of the most commonly used words in
  modern English have Old English roots. For example,
  be, water and strong
            1. The Western and Islamic World –
            Medieval Europe
 William the conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, invaded and
  conquered England and the Anglo-Saxons in 1066AD. He spoke
  in French, as well as his fellow conquerors, but they also used the
  Roman alphabet.
 The new royalty spoke a dialect of Old French known as Anglo-
 As William the Conqueror spoke French, it became what is known
  as an ‘official language’ of England.
 It is from this point that quite a few ‘silent’ letters infiltrated English
  from French, where letters like ‘h’ are not pronounced. For
  example, ‘h’ in ‘hour’ comes from the French ‘heure’ spoken as
         1. The Western and Islamic World –
         Medieval Europe
 People also started including letters in English
  words that weren’t even French in origin ‘to make
  them look more French’. For example, ‘u’ was
  added to ‘labor’ and ‘color’ – originally Latin words.
 People also felt that English should look more like
  Latin and as a consequence, a ‘b’ crept into words
  like ‘doubt’. Originally it had been omitted as
  people didn’t pronounce it.
          1. The Western and Islamic World –
          Medieval Europe
 The influence of the Normans can be illustrated by looking
  at two words, beef and cow. Beef commonly eaten by
  aristocracy, derives from the Anglo-Norman, while the
  Anglo-Saxon commoners, who tended the cattle, retained
  the Germanic cow.
 Many legal terms, such as indict, jury and verdict have
  Anglo-Norman roots because the Normans ran the courts.
 Over time, the French nobles lost their loyalty to France and
  began to speak a modified English instead of Anglo-
         1. The Western and Islamic World –
         Medieval Europe
 In 1349, the Black Death developed, killing about
  one-third of the English population.
 The middle class grew in economic and social
  importance, and along with them, English
  increased in importance compared to Anglo-
 The mixture of the two languages came to be
  known as middle English.
              Year 9 History - Overview

   ‘The Year 9 Curriculum provides a study of the history of the making of the
   modern world. It was a period of industrialisation and rapid change in the ways
   people lived, worked and thought. It was an era of nationalism and imperialism,
   and the colonisation of Australia was part of the expansion of European power.’
   Overview content for the making of the modern world includes the following:
1. the nature and significance of the Industrial Revolution and how it affected living
   and working conditions, including within Australia
2. the nature and extent of the movement of peoples in the period (slaves, convicts
   and settlers)
3. the extent of European imperial expansion and different responses, including in
   the Asian region
4. the emergence and nature of significant economic, social and political ideas in
   the period, including nationalism
           The Making of the Modern
‣   Key Inquiry Questions:
‣   What were the changing features of the movements
    of people from 1750-1918?
‣   How did it contribute to change in new ideas and
    technological developments in this period?
‣   What was the origin, development, significance and
    long-term impact of imperialism in this period?
‣   What was the significance of World War I?
         Year 9 History

Depth Studies are:
1. Making a Better World?
2. Australia and Asia
3. World War I

  Each of the depth studies has their own ‘Historical
  Knowledge and Understanding’ – refer to
  www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for more details.
          1. Making a Better World –
          Movement of peoples

 In other words, migration and immigration
 From 1715 to 1918 - the major movement of peoples that
  relate to Australia is the First Fleet and convicts and their
  impact on indigenous society.
 These movements had an impact on the use of the
  English Language in Australia. People began to create
  the Australian variety of English.
            Making a Better World –
            Movement of Peoples
 At the time of European Settlement, there were around 600 different
indigenous languages in Australia.

 There were many misunderstandings between the early settlers and the
indigenous people because the Europeans believed that there was only one
indigenous language in Australia

 The number of indigenous languages being spoken in Australia has
decreased since European settlement. Some have become extinct.

 Overall, approximately 440 indigenous words have been borrowed, which does
not include place names.
          Making a Better World –
          Movement of Peoples

• One of the most well known uses of an Indigenous word in
English is ‘Kangaroo’. It is the first word to be ‘borrowed’ and
used in Australian English.

•Joseph Banks reported on seeing a Kangaroo, and its killing,
on 14 July 1770. In his diary he spelt it ‘kanguru’. Cook and
Banks took the word with them back to England, and because
of the strangeness of the word, its use grew.

• Urban legend about its meaning.
            Making a Better World –
            Movement of Peoples
 Australian English was influenced by the backgrounds of those on
the First Fleet.
 It is a false idea that many of the new words from this era are to do
with the ‘administration’.
 ‘Flash language’ – language of the professional criminals, which
many of the convicts would have learnt. Its primary function was to
create solidarity, given their isolation from mainstream society.
1793 Watkin Tench’s publication ‘A Complete Account of the
Settlement of Port Jackson’ recorded that translators were often
needed in court cases for those in administration to understand the
convict dialogue.
          Making a Better World –
          Movement of Peoples
In 1843 Charles Rowcroft, in Tales of the Colonies, wrote:

‘I must warn you that we never speak of the convicts in this
country by that term; we always call them ‘government men’;
or on some occasions, prisoners; but we never use the term
‘convict’, which is considered by them as an insulting term’.

Therefore, a convict was often called a public servant. Which
later became used as a term for someone who worked for the
           Making a Better World –
           Movement of Peoples
 The first version of Australian English was spoken by the
children of those on the First Fleet
 Children created a dialect of language, as there were many
influences from the different regions of the British Isles that came
over as free settlers or as convicts. The biggest of these groups
was those that spoke Cockney English.
The children wanted to be able to have a common language,
and so they borrowed words to create a new dialect.
 Peter Miller Cunningham’s book Two Years in New South Wales
(1827) described an accent that was different from the older
         2. Australia and Asia –
         Making a Nation

 The Gold Rush led to mass migration of people to the
  goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.
 ‘Gold is revolutionising manners and language –
  everything is tinctured with a yellow hue, and ounces and
  grains have become familiar words’ – Geelong Advertiser,
  16 Sept, 1851
 There was even a call for a dictionary of mining related
  terms, such was the rise in new words or shifts in
2. Australia and Asia –
Making a Nation
           2. Australia and Asia –
           Making a Nation
There are several ways to approach this cartoon. It is still important
to use it as a historical document. Have students analyse it to find the
values of the society.
Go one level deeper to look at the way that language has been
used to persuade, inform, and isolate members of the society.
New words in Australian English – opium was not a known term or
concept, opium was imported into Australia by Chinese miners.
Pak Ah Pu - Its name came from the Cantonese baakgaap piu –
literally meaning ‘pigeon’s note’ or ‘pigeon’s ticket’.
Fan Tan – card game.
         3. World War I
 Creation of terms during World War I – many more
  people participated and were effected.
 The masculine culture of war meant that slang and
  colloquialisms were used with greater frequency and with
  greater acceptance.
 ‘Pushing up the daisies’, ‘gone west’ were slang terms
  recorded for death.
 Letters home meant that the slanguage of the Diggers
  was not only recorded, but sent home.
         World War I

‘Anzac’ was first recorded in 1915, while words like
‘cobber’, ‘dinkum’, ‘digger’ and ‘mate’ were all synonymous
with the war experience of Australians.
Language was used to distinguish what we ‘were’ and
‘were not’. A good example of this is in the Peter Weir film
Gallipoli, where the Australians ‘put on’ British accents.
 Students can use recruitment posters to study the words
of the time.
The word ‘Dardenelles’ may not
have been known widely by
Australians until men were fighting

The term ‘Coo-ee’ was an
indigenous term, however, it was
used be Australians on Cooee
Marches, who shouted ‘Cooee’ to
try and gain attention and
encourage others to enlist.
                    Year 10 History - Overview
     ‘The Year 10 curriculum provides a study of the history of the modern world and Australia from 1918 to the
     present, with an emphasis on Australia in its global context. The twentieth century became a critical period in
     Australia’s social, cultural, economic and political development. The transformation of the modern world during
     a time of political turmoil, global conflict and international cooperation provides a necessary context for
     understanding Australia’s development, its place within the Asia-Pacific region and its global standing’

     Overview content for the Modern World and Australia includes the following:

1.   the inter-war years between World War I and World War II, including the Treaty of Versailles, the Roaring
     Twenties and the Great Depression

2.   continuing efforts post-World War II to achieve lasting peace and security in the world, including Australia’s
     involvement in UN peacekeeping

3.   the major movements for rights and freedom in the world and the achievement of independence by former

4.   the nature of the Cold War and Australia’s involvement in Cold War and post-Cold War conflicts (Korea,
     Vietnam, The Gulf Wars, Afghanistan), including the rising influence of Asian nations since the end of the Cold

5.   developments in technology, public health, longevity and standard of living during the twentieth century, and
     concern for the environment and sustainability
          The Modern World and Australia

‣   Key Inquiry Questions:
‣   How did the nature of global conflict change during
    the twentieth century?
‣   What were the consequences of World War II? How
    did these consequences shape the modern world?
‣   How was Australian society affected by other
    significant global events and changes in this period?
          Year 10 History

Depth Studies are:
1. World War II
2. Rights and Freedoms
3. The Globalising World

  Each of the depth studies has their own ‘Historical
  Knowledge and Understanding’ – refer to
  www.australiancurriculum.edu.au for more details.
            1. World War II
 New words were created that were specific to wartime conditions –
Japanese military leader Hideki Tojo generated the word ‘Tojo’ for
Japanese soldier
Fuzzy wuzzy (1942) – definition was ‘those people that gave assistance
to Australian military personnel, especially as a stretcher bearer.’
‘Going troppo’ came from Australian soldiers who were serving in
tropical conditions.
 ‘Jungle juice’ – slang for alcoholic drink, was first used by troops
serving in New Guinea, but had a more general use in the years following
the war.
The publications of soldiers, as with the First World War, documented
the language used within a war time context.
           World War II
 You don’t have to stay within Australia to find use of
  language and shifts in meaning.
 Investigate propaganda posters and the use of language
  to persuade citizens to join the army. They often used
  language to show that conscription was wrong/right, or
  that a nation was evil.
 Hitler’s propaganda posters and ‘The Poisonous
  Mushroom’ picture book were used to convince citizens
  that Jewish people were a lower class.
 The Nuremberg Laws and how they were used to violate
The text at the bottom
reads - ‘The Jewish nose
is crooked at its tip. It
looks like the number 6’

Why did the Nazis target
children for propaganda?

It is possible to study not
only what was being said
in the book, but child
language acquisition.

Doublespeak and
propaganda form part of
the current Year 12
English Language Study
           2. Rights and Freedoms
 The comparison of civil rights in the United States and
    Australia is a good place to show the differences in language
    between the two countries.
   The use of television to portray struggles. What language
    does the media use in these contexts?
   Speeches – Martin Luther King vs. Charles Perkins.
   Study the use of lexicon and phonology, and how they may
    differ between the two countries.
   Students can also study persuasive techniques – linking to
    the English Curriculum.
         3. The Globalising World –
         Migration Experiences
 Different periods of migration have resulted in
  changes in language in Australia.
 Investigate post war migration, Vietnamese refugees,
  asylum seekers and blending of words into the
  English Language.
 Study the ethnolects found in Australian society as a
  result of these migration experiences.
 An ethnolect is a form of language that belongs to a
  particular ethnic group.
          The Globalising World –
          Migration Experiences

 Ethnolects develop when Australian English blends with
the native language of the migrant and their children.
 The government policy of monolinguism in the 1950s
meant that children of first wave migrants were essentially
forced to speak the language of their peers
Migrant languages had greater importance from the 1970s
with policies of multiculturalism and the establishment of
ethnic radio stations and television.
 Ethnolects show distinct characteristics in terms of
grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary e.g. footaballa
         The Globalising World –
         Migration Experiences
 Terms from the L1 of the migrants make their way into
Australian English
How many of us have a croissant, eat lasagne, drink
chai? Use markers of language such as these to describe
the experiences of migrants, and the influences on
Australian society.
Most importantly, use your students as a research tool.
Our classrooms are naturally multicultural and our students
are becoming increasingly exposed to other cultures, so
why not use this!
Email addresses:


                Image Sources
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   http://www.ghcma.vic.gov.au/cultural-heritage/language/ (accessed 24/7/2011)
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   http://www.ushmm.org/propaganda/archive/poisonous-mushroom-book/ (accessed 24/7/2011)

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