Language change

Language change is variation over time in a language's phonological, morphological, semantic, syntactic, and other features. It is studied by historical linguistics and evolutionary linguistics. Some commentators use the label corruption to suggest that language change constitutes a degradation in the quality of a language, especially when the change originates from human error or prescriptively discouraged usage. Descriptive linguistics typically does not support this concept, since from a scientific point of view such changes are neither good nor bad.

According to Guy Deutscher, the tricky question is "Why are changes not brought up short and stopped in their tracks? At first sight, there seem to be all the reasons in the world why society should never let the changes through." He sees the reason for tolerating change in the fact that we already are used to "synchronic variation", to the extent that we are hardly aware of it. For example, when we hear the word "wicked", we automatically interpret it as either "evil" or "wonderful", depending on whether it is uttered by an elderly lady or a teenager. Deutscher speculates that "n a hundred years' time, when the original meaning of 'wicked' has all but been forgotten, people may wonder how it was ever possible for a word meaning 'evil' to change its sense to 'wonderful' so quickly."

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

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

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

The ongoing influx of new words into 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.

This page was last edited on 28 April 2018, at 18:01.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_change under CC BY-SA license.

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