What is happening in english
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WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ENGLISH?. WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ENGLISH?. by. MICHAEL SWAN. by MICHAEL SWAN. “All languages change. The English of 500 years ago is hard for us to read, and if we could hear it spoken, we would understand very little…” Michael SWAN.

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What is happening in english

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ENGLISH?

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ENGLISH?

by

MICHAEL SWAN

by

MICHAEL SWAN


What is happening in english

  • “All languages change. The English of 500 years ago is hard for us to read, and if we could hear it spoken, we would understand very little…” Michael SWAN

“All languages change. The English of 500 years ago is hard for us to read, and if we could hear it spoken, we would understand very little…”

Michael SWAN


In which main ways does language english change

In which main ways does language (English) change?

  • Grammar

  • Pronunciation

  • Vocabulary


What is happening in english

WHY?


Reasons for language change

REASONS FOR LANGUAGE CHANGE

1. Phonetic Erosion:Speech production is a complex physical and mental operation, thus, less important syllables easily lose stress and are reduced. Phonetic Erosion has two phases;

a. Phonetic Erosion of Syllables

Ex:secretary (‘secretry’ or ‘secetry’)

b. Merged Words

Ex:‘going to’ turns into ‘gonna’

‘could have’ turns into ‘coulda’

‘have to’ turns into ‘hafta’


What is happening in english

2. Structural Erosion:

a. Erosion of Auxiliaries

Ex:‘I’ve got’ turns into ‘I got’

‘What do you want?’ turns into‘What you want?’

b. Confusion of Irregular Verb Distinctions

Ex:The ship sunk without trace. (sank/sunk)

She sung very well yesterday. (sang/sung)


What is happening in english

“Modals express numerous subtle shades of meaning which can easily become blurred, so that the verbs gradually shift their uses”.

Michael SWAN

“Modals express numerous subtle shades of meaning which can easily become blurred, so that the verbs gradually shift their uses”.

Michael SWAN


What is happening in english

c. Modals: Divergence of Meanings

Ex:What does the modalmay have + past participlerefer to?

! Traditionally, it refers to a possibility thatsomething really happened.

e.g.(after an accident)

They have taken her in for an X-ray – she may have broken her leg.

! Now, it also refers to an unrealised possibility as in‘You were stupid to go skiing there – you may have broken your leg’,whereas older speakers would use‘might/could have broken’.


Innovation in language

INNOVATION IN LANGUAGE

INNOVATION IN LANGUAGE

“As the world moves along, old forms of expression get tired and worn out, and speakers of a language – especially younger speakers – seek to brighten things up”.

Michael SWAN

“As the world moves along, old forms of expression get tired and worn out, and speakers of a language – especially younger speakers – seek to brighten things up”.

Michael SWAN


What is happening in english

1. The formula I was like, meaning ‘I said’ was so catchy that it spread through the language very quickly.

Ex:I was like ‘You can’t do that’.

She was like ‘Well, I’m gonna’.

2. ‘set to’:It is losing its original meaning and becoming grammaticalised as an auxiliary, used not only for people but also for things and processes.

Ex:interests are set to rise

pub opening hours are set to change

3. Reintroduction of the Second Person Singular-PluralDistinction

Ex:Irish/Scottishyez

Southern USy’all

Now, it’s becoming common in casual speech to use ‘you guys’ instead of just ‘you’.


Pronunciation and vocabulary

PRONUNCIATION and VOCABULARY

1. Pronunciation

Swan calls attention to the rapid changes in English pronunciation norms in the last half century and points to how ‘Received Pronunciation’ was affected in this period.

What is ‘Received Pronunciation’ (RP)?

  • It is the non-regional class-based British accent which had the status of a standard up to the 1960s.

  • According to Swan, RP has lost its prestige and is now spoken by no more than %3 of the population. (So, the norms of pronunciation are also very open to any change and thus, they are changing.)


What is happening in english

2. Vocabulary

How might vocabulary be affected?

  • The shortage of inflections makes English borrow freely from other languages.

  • The highest proportion of the borrowed words came from French.

  • Apart from this, English also created its own words by affixations.

    Ex:auto-, eco-, mono-, macro-, inter-, -ology, -cratic etc…


What is happening in english

INFLUENCES

“One national variety can influence another – British English is changing in various small ways under the influence of its powerful American cousin”.

Michael SWAN


What do we understand by this

What do we understand by this?

In Swan’s opinion, another important mechanism ofchange isINFLUENCE, which closes both British and American English up grammatically.

1. Grammatical and Lexical Influence

According to Swan, for example, some British speakers began to use ‘Do you have…?’ for current possession instead of ‘Have you got…?’ and ‘He looked like…’ instead of ‘He looked as if…’ under the influence of Americans. Some Americans, on the other hand, started to imitate British ways of speaking, using words like ‘sacked’ for ‘fired’, ‘go missing’ for ‘disappear’ or ‘at the end of the day’ for ‘in the end’ under the illusion of British high culture.


What is happening in english

2. Formal and Informal Varieties

  • As Swan puts it, formal and informal varieties also influence each other. For him, in 19th century Britain and America;

    *The written language had great prestige.

    *The informal spoken language was regarded as a poor relation.

  • The gap between spoken and written varieties has reduced to a large extent thanks to oral media’s rehabilitation of the grammar of speech.

  • For the time being, Swan also asserts that the use of highly informal grammar in e-mails and text messages is further reducing the spoken/written divide.

    Ex: txt msgs


The pace of change

THE PACE of CHANGE

The world has turned into a global villagenowadays. In this sense, Swan states, small-scale changes to specific forms are spreading quickly such as ‘was like’ to mean ‘said’ from American English to British English in a matter of ten years or so.


What is happening in english

  • However, changes affecting larger linguistic systems can well take centuries to work out. Some examples to this put forward by Swan are as follows;

    1. Use of English Progressive:We may even hear utterances like ‘understanding’ and ‘liking’ nowadays, although they are not grammatically acceptable.

    2. Use of Comparative/Superlative Forms:‘More’ and ‘most’ first took over three-syllable adjectives and are now moving into two-syllable words.

    3. ‘Will’and‘would’have begun to replace ‘shall’ and ‘should’, although it has taken a long time.


Tracking change

TRACKING CHANGE

Swan points up the importance of linguisticresearch to be able to see what is changing in English. At this point, Swan refers to a recent study by Leech revealing that modal verbs such as may and mustare used less frequently than before.


What should we be doing about all these changes

WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING ABOUT ALL THESE CHANGES?

  • Teachers don’t need to worry about such changes as English is not changing quite fast. Most of the language will stay the same for some time to come.

  • We should just be following the innovation in language at times in order not to misinform our students.

  • The authors of language courses, grammars and dictionaries need to be alert to even the smallest changes that are going on.


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