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Attitudes to Language Change. Prepared by: Sana Lamtara Bouchra Arrif . Outline. Introduction I- The Inevitability of Change II- Aspects of Change in Written and Spoken Language a- Examples of Changes in Spoken Language. III- The Conservative Attitude a- Prescriptivism

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Attitudes to language change

Attitudes to Language Change

Prepared by:

Sana Lamtara

Bouchra Arrif



I- The Inevitability of Change

II- Aspects of Change in Written and Spoken Language

a- Examples of Changes in Spoken Language.

III- The Conservative Attitude

a- Prescriptivism

b- Positive aspects of Prescriptivism

c- Criticism.

d- Aitchison’s Attitudes to Language Change

IV- In Favor of Language Change

a- Descriptivism

b- Criticism of Descriptivism.

V- Political Correctness (PC) approach

a- Definition

b- Historical Background of the approach

c- Examples

d- Criticism.

VI- Language: a political Concern

a- Language Policy

b- Language Academies

c- Example of the French Academy (L'Académiefrançaise)


I the inevitability of change
I- The inevitability of change

  • Change is constant

  • Everything in this universe is perpetually in a state of change.

  • The most colloquial English of several hundred years ago sounds remarkably strange to us.

  • Edmund Spenser speaks of “the ever –whirling wheel of change, the which all mortal things sway”

  • The famous linguist Ferdinand De Saussure noted: “time changes all things: There is no reason why language should escape this universal law.”

Ii change in spoken and written language
II- change in spoken and written language

Written Language

Spoken language

  • Preserved through rules/standards

  • Institutional and official preservation: Language Academies

  • Kept as conservative and traditional

  • Undergoes on-going change

  • Fast change

  • Change happens at different levels:

    • Lexicon

    • Phonology

    • Morphology

    • Grammatical Structures

Iii the conservative attitude
III- The conservative attitude

  • Throughout history, conservatives have been against language change.

  • They wanted to abolish the “intruding” new linguistic changes.

  • They believe in an absolute standard of correctness.

  • Language achieved a measure of excellence that should be maintained.

  • Language should be protected from the ravages of fashion and social trends.


  • Lived before the innovation of linguistic changes(middle aged or older)

  • They are mostly well-educated.

  • They are linguistically conservatives.

Attitudes to language change

Conservatives consider Language change as:

  • Cruel

  • Sloppy

  • Corruption to language

I hope versus hopefully
I hope Versus Hopefully

  • I Hope we will arrive in time for lunch.

  • Hopefully, we will arrive in time for lunch.

Is repairing versus is being repaired
Is repairing Versus is being repaired

  • My car is repairing

  • My car is being repaired


  • Restricts variation

  • Controls future changes

  • Imposes standardized rules

  • Rejects existing non-standard rules

  • Views non-standard varieties as inferior

Positive aspects
Positive aspects

  • It standardizes English

  • helps English speakers around the world to communicate reliably.


  • Prescriptivism concentrates on the technical aspect of the language and discriminates against non-standard forms.

Aitchison s attitudes to language change
Aitchison’s attitudes to language change

Aitchison described 3 different attitudes to language change:

  • The crumbling castle: English language is like a beautiful stately home that should be preserved.

  • The Damp spoon syndrome: New forms arise from sheer laziness like dipping a damp spoon into sugar.(lazy speech occurs when muscles aren’t fully functional)

  • The infectious disease: Changes in language are somehow contagious (people pick up new words because they like them).

Iv in favor of language change
IV- in favor of Language Change

  • Language change is useful and necessary

  • The development of English only fulfils its primary function

  • Language then is a vehicle of expression and communication.


  • Generally they are young people.

  • They have grown within language change.

  • They don’t resist change.

  • They accept and are in favor of language development.

Positive aspects of language change
Positive Aspects of Language Change

Language development is viewed as positive because:

  • It serves language

  • Provides ease of communication

  • It is useful

Corruption is no longer valid
Corruption is no longer valid…

  • “Corruption” has turned to take a new positive dimension.


  • The Corruption of Latin has led to the appearance of new languages: e.g. French, Spanish, …

  • Speakers of these languages consider them as:

    • Natural

    • Rich

    • Beautiful

    • Expressive

Attitude of descriptivism to language change
Attitude of Descriptivism to Language Change

  • Descriptivism views language change as natural.

  • It considers language as something that evolves and adapts:

    • New forms come in

    • Some drop out

    • Other forms remain

Key features of descriptivism
Key features of Descriptivism

  • Describe forms of variation

  • Present varieties without preference

  • Record change as it happens

  • Avoid interference with change and variation

  • Understand use in context

Criticism towards descriptivism
Criticism towards Descriptivism

The standard form of language can be negatively affected by the use of non-standard varieties in written publications, school or workplace.


  • Political Correctness is an approach that seeks to reduce and remove the offence caused to particular individuals or groups through prejudice and discrimination.

  • It is believed that language can cause offence and reinforce inequality.

  • Today PC is an undoubted field of language change

Historical background
Historical Background

  • In 1970, with the influence of the feminist movement, PC made gender representation in language its main focus.

  • The PC approach developed in USA and its influence spread later to the UK.

  • By early 1990’s, it was being used as a general tool for

    “a neutral language”

  • It isn’t restricted only to gender, but it also concerns issues of representation in many social grouping.


  • PC was heavily criticized.

  • By the late 1990’s, PC lost much of its credibility

Vi language a political concern
VI- Language: a political Concern

Language policy
Language Policy

“Language Policy is what a government does either officially through legislation, court decisions or policy to determine how languages are used, cultivate language skills needed to meet national priorities or to establish the rights of individuals or groups to use and maintain languages.”

Institutional regularization language academies
Institutional Regularization: Language Academies

The Role of Language Academies

  • maintain and protect the language

  • fix the language

  • Give a linguistic heritage to all citizens and everyone who speaks that language.

  • Maintain high standards of usage while keeping up with the necessary evolution of Language.

Attitudes to language change

These standards are maintained by:

  • The production of the official dictionary, Lexicography.

  • The Recommendation of updates

  • The participation in the creation of new terms.

Historical background1
Historical Background

  • The Academy was founded in 1635 by cardinal Richelieu. The bylaws were signed by Louis XIII that same year, and registered with Parliament in 1637.

  • Since then, the job has belonged to the successive kings, emperors, and heads of state of the country.


"The primary function of the Académie will be to work, with all possible care and diligence, to give specific rules for our language and make it pure, eloquent, and useful in the arts and science.“

Article 24 of the Bylaws of L'Académie française


  • Members of Language Academies always constitute the intellectual elite:

    • Poets

    • Philosophers

    • Doctors

    • Linguists

    • Art critics

    • Heads of state.

    • Clergymen, etc

  • The aim of a varied composition is to provide a wide range of knowledge and culture.

  • Conclusion

    Why should language change be unavoidable?


    • Aitchinson, Jean Language Change: Progress or decay? Cambridge; new York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    • Trask, R.L Historical Linguistics. London; New York: Arnold; distributed in the USA by St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

    • Trask, R.L Language Change. London; New York: Routledge, 1994.

    • Web references