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LIN204 - DISCUSSION. Mtholeni N. Ngcobo 11 MARCH 2010 Outline. Outcomes Language change through history The European Classical languages The development of the English language Social class and language change The development of new languages

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Mtholeni N. Ngcobo

11 MARCH 2010

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • Outcomes
  • Language change through history
  • The European Classical languages
  • The development of the English language
  • Social class and language change
  • The development of new languages
  • Language change in multilingual society
  • Language death, language shift and language maintenance

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • Outcomes for the module LIN2046

After you have worked through this study guide you should be able to:

1. identify changes in the world around you

2. recognise their effect on you

3. relate language change to historical change in the world, in various contexts and settings

4. identify the influence of languages on each other in a multicultural society.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language change throughout history
Language change throughout history
  • The central theme of this module “changes in society bring about changes inlanguage”
  • Language is not static – it always changing – over a period of time
  • The change affects people and the change in the world affects language
  • Historical and social contexts

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • `the process by which the future invades our lives‘
  • Here is the opening extract from the Lord's Prayer from different periods of English:
  • Old English (c 400 AD to c 1100): Fñder ure, "u "e art on heofonum, si "in nama gehalgod. To becume "in rice. (West Saxon text, end of tenth century, in W.B. Lockwood 1972:132)
  • Middle English (c 1100 to c 1500): Fader oure "at is i heuen. blessid bi "i name to neuen. Come to us "i kingdome. (In C. Jones 1972)
  • Early Modern English (c 1500 to c 1800) Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. (King James Bible)
  • Modern English (from c 1800): Our father who is in heaven, may your name be sacred. Let your kingdom come. (A modern rendition)

(Mesthrie 2000:114)

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • Semantic change: Change in meaning or semantic representation of words and linguistic expressions may
  • Three types of semantic change that can occur: the meanings of words may become broader, narrower or be shifted
  • Broadening

When the meaning of a word is broadened, it means that the meaning is expanded to refer to more than it did before. Example, the word holiday is derived from holy day, the day on which a religious festival takes place. Today the meaning of the word has been broadened to refer to any day on which we do not have to work. A Sepedi example is tshekase which originally referred to a plastic bag found in Checkers shops, but has now broadened its meaning to refer to any plastic bag.

2. Narrowing

In contrast to the word dog, the Middle English word hound was a general word for `dog‘ and was used to refer to all types of dog. Today hound is no longer generally used to refer to all types of dog. Now it is often used to refer to a particular type of dog used for hunting, e.g. foxhound. It has acquired a narrower, more specific meaning. Another example is lerema (`expert hunter') in Sepedi which refers to a particular person who is an expert in hunting and not just any hunter.

3. Semantic shift

Semantic shift occurs when words (or lexical items) undergo a shift or change in meaning. In the Middle Ages the word bead meant `prayer'. Because of the custom of saying repeated prayers and counting the number of prayers by means of little wooden balls on a rosary, the meaning of bead shifted from prayer to the little wooden balls on the rosary. Today beads are made of plastic, glass or other materials. A more recent example of semantic shift is the word mouse. The word originally referred only to a `small rodent'. In computer terminology mouse now refers to a device used to operate the computer.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics


Phonological change

  • Sound changes - Example, there are manywords in English where the gh sound, used to be pronounced like the Afrikaans g (as in lig `light'), e.g. light, night, laugh, drought. Today the gh has fallen away in the pronunciation of these words. In other words, the gh sound is not pronounced any more in words like light, but the spelling has remained the same.
  • Another major sound change in English occurred in the pronunciation of vowels.
  • Between 1400 and 1600 the so-called Great Vowel Shift took place when a number of vowels in Middle English underwent major changes, e.g. there used to be a long vowel in mice (the i in mice was pronounced like ee in see) which became a diphthong in Modern English.

Syntactic change

  • The rules of syntax (or grammar) of a language often undergo changes over time.
  • Consider the changes that have taken place in the Old English example : "ht he na si""an geboren ne wurde (Old English) that he never after born not would-be (gloss, literal translation) `that he should never be born after that' (Modern English translation)
  • Besides the changes in word order, note the use of the double negative (represented by na and ne) in Old English which would be considered ungrammatical in Modern English.

Change in use

  • Apart from changes in meaning, old words may disappear from a language, e.g. the following words taken from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, written in the 16th century, are no longer used in English today:
  • wot `to know', wherefore `why', fain `gladly', mammet `a doll or puppet'
  • New words may also appear in a language.
  • The following words which are commonly used in 21st Century English were totally unknown in Shakespeare's day: aeroplane, computer, e-mail, jazz, jeans, motor car, television

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

historical perspective of change
Historical perspective of change

500 BCAD500+1500+19th century 20th century


PrehistoryClassical period Middle Ages RenaissanceIndustrial Revolution Information Age

1.1 The Greek and Roman civilisations flourished during the ....................

1.2 English became the dominant global (international) language during the ....................

1.3 The European vernaculars (like English) began to develop as literary languages during the ....................

1.4 During the Latin was the main language of the church .................... And education in Europe.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

ancient greek
Ancient Greek
  • The Greeks of Ancient Greece influenced Western society in many ways.
  • The Greeksproduced outstanding achievements in the areas of art, sculpture, architecture, medicine, mathematics and science and in these domains we find remnants of the Greek language.
  • It is important to remember that the development of the Greek civilisation was built on important precursors in the Middle East, Egypt and Africa.
  • We only start with Ancient Greece here because we can still see the influence of the Greek language in modern English.

Medical domain

Greek root Meaning

Algesi(a) pain

Hem(a) blood

Path(y) disease

Cardi(o) heart

Greek prefixes found in English words

Greek prefix Meaning Engish example

Amphi- both or around amphitheatre or amphibian

Anti against anti-apartheid


Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • It is possible to separate Greek from Latin influence.
  • The Romans conquered the Greeks.
  • The Romans recruited soldiers from the conquered nation and as a result Latin was used for communication.
  • Latin was used in all the parts of the known ancient (Western) world and it became the dominant language of the Western world.
  • After the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin continued to be used by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Latin also became a language of the scholars, diplomats and scientists. (Examples of words derived from Latin must be included, e.g. names of months).

French Italian Spanish Portuguese Romanian Latin English

un uno uno um un unus one

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

traces of latin in sa english
Traces of Latin in SA English

Latin English

a.m. (ante meriden) before noon

p.m. (post meriden) afternoon

AD (Anno Domini) In the year of the Lord

i.e. (id est) that is

e.g. (exempli gratia) for example

Sine qua non without which nothing

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

the development of english
The development of English
  • English – a global language – a lingau franca – language of wider communication
  • Pre-Old English (before AD 500)
  • Old English (from 500-1150)
  • Middle English (from 1150-1450)
  • Early mode English (from 1450-1700)
  • Modern English (from 1700-1945)
  • World Englishe(s) (from 1945)

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

world englishes
World Englishes

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

world englishes1
World Englishes
  • With the spread of English around the world, many new varieties of English have arisen.
  • These varieties are often referred to as different Englishes.
  • Kachru presents the spread of English around the world as three concentric circles.
  • Each circle represents different ways in which the language has been acquired and is currently used.
  • The core, or inner circle is where English is the primary language, e.g. UK, US etc.
  • The outer circle is represented by settings where English plays an important role in second-language teaching because of the role of this language in a multilingual country, e.g. Botswana, South Africa, etc.
  • The expanding circle is where English is only regarded as an international language. In this situation the countries have no history of being colonized by the members of the inner circle. In these countries, English does not have a special place in their language policy, it is not an official language, e.g. China, Japan, etc.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

social class and language change
Social class and language change
  • LABOV IN MARTHAR’S VINEYARD: Why he conducted this research? As a sociolinguists, he wanted to investigate the changes in pronunciation of certain speech sounds on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and the effect that this linguistic change had on the islanders and their summer visitors.
  • How he conducted his research? He recorded the speech of various islanders and looked specifically at the way in which they pronounced certain words. He noted that approximately 30 years earlier another linguist had visited the island and made a study. This linguist had interviewed members of the old families on the island.
  • What this change was? Labov compared his study with the 30 year-old record and he discovered that the vowel sound ou in the words such as out, trout and pounds seemed to be changing. The vowel sound in this word is a diphthong and is pronounced as (aw). He noticed that this diphthong was being centered. He also noticed a similar change in the diphthong (ay) in words such as white, by, and writes, which was also being centred. He also interviewed a cross-section of the islanders, excluding the summer visitors, to test their use of vowels. He found out that the islanders were not aware that this change was happening. It was not a conscious change. He also discovered that the change was least evident in over 75 year-olds and most prominent in the 31 to 45 age group. The speech of those under 30 was less affected that that of the 40 year-olds. Geographically, he change was far more widespread in the rural, western Up-Island than in more densely populated Down-Island. It was particularly noticeable in a place called Chilmark where most of the fishermen (about 2.5%) lived.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

social class and language change1
Social class and language change
  • Where it originated and why it took place? The change has probably originated from a small group of fishermen, and had then spread to other people on the island, particularly those in the 31 to 45 year-old age group.
  • The fishermen had not suddenly changed the way they spoke.
  • They started to exaggerate the tendency that was already there.
  • The vowel shift represented the old-fashioned feature in the fishermen’s pronunciation prevalent in the mainland America in the 18th and 19 centuries.
  • While this vowel pronunciation had changed in mainland America over a period of 30 years, the fishermen had retained the older pronunciation and started to exaggerate it.
  • The change to the traditional way of speech was due to the fact that many foreigners were visiting the island and the older inhabitants saw visitors as the intruders to their traditional way of life.
  • Those in the age group 31 to 45 were imitating the fishermen and they intended to live in the island. This type of change is called change from below.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language variation in ny city
Language variation in NY City
  • William Labov’s Department Store Study

Saks Fifth Avenue

– At 50th Street and 5th Avenue, near the center of the high fashion shopping district

• Macy's

– Herald Square. 34th Street and Sixth Avenue, near the garment district

• S. Klein

– Union Square. 14th Street and Broadway, not far from the Lower East Side

  • The three stores are classified by

– Their location

– The number of pages of advertising in The New York Times and in The Daily News

– The prices of comparable items (e.g., in 1962, women's coats averaged $90 in Sacks, $79.95 in Macy's, and $23 in Klein's)

– The size and layout of the store

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language variation
Language variation
  • The interviewer asked:

Excuse me, where are the (women's shoes)?

  • The salesperson answered:

Fourth floor.

  • The interviewer then leaned forward and said:

Excuse me?

  • The salesperson answered:

Fourth floor.

  • In New York City the pronunciation of postvocalic (r) in words like “fourth” and “floor” is variable.
  • William Labov hypothesized: Salespeople in the highest ranked stores will have the most (r), those in the middle ranked store will have an intermediate value, and those in the lowest ranked store will have the least.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language variation1
Language variation
  • The pronunciation of postvocalic (r) varies according to its position in a word.

–Before a consonant: fourth

–At the end of a word: floor

  • The pronunciation of postvocalic (r) varies according to how much attention the speaker pays to what s/he is saying.

–First mention of “fourth floor”

–Emphatic repeat of “fourth floor”

  • The same linguistic variable is likely to have different values in different speech communities.

– In New York City, (r) is pronounced more by higher social classes.

– But in Reading, England, (r) is pronounced less by higher social classes.

  • Lower Middle Class speakers sometimes use prestige features at a greater rate than Upper Middle Class speakers.

– And LMC speakers use stigmatized features at a lower rate than the UMC.

– Because the LMC wish to achieve the next higher level of status, they attempt to talk like members of the next higher class, but they go too far. HYPERCORRECTION.

This type of change is called – Change from above

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

variation and change in south africa
Variation and change in South Africa
  • In some studies of South African English (SAE) an attempt has been made to apply Labov's approach to variation.
  • For instance, Lanham and Prinsloo identify the following sociological variables which could be used in classifying SAE speakers:
  • social class (upper, middle and lower classes)
  • recent British descent
  • Afrikaans kinship ties
  • residence in centres of either Afrikaans or English influence
  • urban vs rural residence
  • school background (private or government school)
  • associations with Britain
  • age
  • According to Lanham and Macdonald speakers of SAE can be classified into three groups (please note that speakers of SAE exclude speakers of BSAE):
  • Cultivated: Middle-class speakers having associations with England.
  • General: Middle-class speakers.
  • Broad: Mostly lower middle-class or upper working-class; identifying with the outdoors and sport; and significant contacts with Afrikaans speakers, and hence partially influenced by Afrikaans norms.
  • These three groups correlate roughly with three of Labov's classes: UMC, LMC and WC.
  • The linguistic variables which Lanham and Macdonald use to characterise these groups are the vowel system which the speakers typically use. Cultivated or UMC speakers of SAE use the vowel system close to Standard British English. Broad or WC speakers use vowels which are the least like standard British English vowels.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

the development of new languages
The development of new languages
  • Pidgin: a language in embryo
  • Characteristics
  • Limited vocabulary, e.g. Hand > ‘shoulder’, ‘wing’, ‘paw’, etc.
  • Simplified phonology e.g. Tok Pisin 5 vowels, laugh>lap, leaf>lip. The contrast between [p] and [f] is neutralised
  • Simplified morphology, e.g. han belong dok
  • Simplified syntax, e.g. The los of auxiliary verbs, beam very strong > the beam is very strong
  • Slow speech rate
  • It is an unstable language
  • Creole: Develop from pidgin

Pidgin Creole

  • No first language speakers Many first language speakers
  • Used in a restricted communicative context onlyUsed in wide variety of communicative contexts
  • Relatively slow speech Fast normal speech with elision, assimilation, etc.
  • Very limited number of lexical items Wide range of lexical items
  • Syntactically simple More complex syntax

Decreolisation: (the death of a pidgin) when a hypothetical phenomenon whereby over time a creole language reconverges with one of the standard languages from which it originally derived

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

the development of afrikaans
The development of Afrikaans
  • 1652 - The arrival of Dutch settlers in the Cape, Jan van Riebeek
  • Side by side with the Khoi community
  • Slaves also arrived from the East who spoke Malay-Portuguese
  • 1688 - More settlers arrived including French Huguenots
  • The cape became the British colony in 1806 as a result of the Napoleonic wars in Europe
  • English became the official language of the colony
  • In 1820 more British arrived in the eastern cape
  • In 1834 slavery was abolished – the Dutch settlers were dissatisfied and they trekked into the interior of South Africa
  • They set two republics: the Orange Free State and the South African Republic.
  • Dutch spread to other parts of Southern Africa.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • Afrikaans > originated from Dutch, Eastern languages, Khoi languages, etc.
  • Farmers who lived in the eastern border of cape spoke Dutch that was influenced by othe European languages – Boarder Afrikaans.
  • The slaves spoke Dutch that was influenced by Malay-Portuguese – Cape Afrikaans
  • The Khoi influenced Dutch – Orange river Afrikaans
  • By 19th centrury Dutch lost its standardisation
  • In 1925 Afrikaans replaced Dutch

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

  • A Zulu based contact language (pidgin)
  • A simplified Zulu with words derived from English and, to a lesser extent, Afrikaans
  • It is still alive today as a pidgin in KwaZulu-Natal, mines, etc despite the fact that many people have learnt English
  • It is believed that it was began as communication between settlers, Indians and Zulus in Natal
  • It later spread to Transvaal, mines and as far as Zimbabwe where it was introduced as Chilapalapa
  • The attitudes towards Fanakalo have changed as many people see it as a legacy of the apartheid era

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language change in multilingual society
Language change in multilingual society
  • Multilingualism contributes to language change
  • Monolingualism: the use of one language
  • Bilingualism: the use of two languages
  • Societal bilingualism: when two or more languages are spoken within a particular society
  • Individual bilingualism: a person’s ability to use two languages
  • Diagonal bilingualism: a form of a diglossia where a dialect or a non-standard language functions together with a genetically unrelated standard language in society
  • Diglosia: when two languages or language varieties exist side by side in a community and each one is used for different purposes

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

codeswitching and codemixing
Codeswitching and codemixing
  • Codeswitching: the use of two or more languages in the same conversation, usually within the same conversational turn, or even within the same sentence of the turn. It is the shifting by a speaker from language A to language B.
  • Codemixing: is a more rapid switching, where the speaker borrows words or phrases from a second language in the course of a conversation conducted mainly in one of the languages.

Example: It depends ukuthi unobani. For instance if nginabangane bam kuya ngokuthi bathole sikhulumani. If bafike ngikhuluma isiZulu bazojoyina. If islang sabangane ons sal almal witie. The situation ukuthi unabobani.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

slang and tsotsitaal
Slang and Tsotsitaal
  • Slang: a fashion item – a marker of identity and delineator of groups – separating young from old – urban from rural – a marker of in-group from out-group. It is secretive and deviant.

Greeting Response

Was'sup? Hallo, how are you? Cool, nigga! Mellow, shwarka, maintaining, pashash, sweet

  • Tsotsitaal: was used formerly by gangsters and thugs - is a mixture of languages, mainly Zulu and Afrikaans  

In standard language, ilahle is `coal' and it can be cold or hot. To the tsotsis, ilahle means a stolen

vehicle. If they say ilahle liyashisa it means the stolen vehicle has not been changed.

  • Slang and Tsotsitaal: both are use for in-group communication and they are secretive. They are both informal languages. Now Tsotsitaal is also used by youth even if they are not thugs. (examples must be provided).
  • The following is a list of some of the words that show the dynamic nature of Tsotsitaal:

mfethu/mfowethu (`brother')

izingamule/abelungu (`white people')

istaka/nyoko/ismeke (`money')

umfana/intwana (`a small boy')

intwana/incosi (`a young person')

ubaba/ithayima (`father')

Ngcobo MN Linguistics

language death shift and maitenance
Language death, shift and maitenance
  • Language death – when a language has died out
  • Linguicide – language death due to genocide
  • Language shift – when people start to speak a dominant language.
  • Sudden language death – language dies very rapidly
  • Gradual language death – a gradual process of language change.  
  • Language maintenance – a situation where a language holds on despite the influence of powerful neighbours.
  • Maintaining factors – education, cultural organizations, religion, the role of the family, attitudes and maintaining contact with the mother country.

Ngcobo MN Linguistics


Ngcobo MN Linguistics