Language Change

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    Jul 02, 2013
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Language Change Photo by Aleksandra Kovrlija

Philosophers have always pointed out that everything around us is constantly in a state of change.  Language is no exception. In fact, it is a continuous process of development. Some linguists think that it is a natural process and the enrichment of language. They also point out that ``the English of today reflects many centuries of development``. (Baugh and Cable, 2002: 1).  In their opinion, a rich language must be flexible and adaptable.  Linguists point out that English is probably one of the most widely used languages in the world. They generally agree that ``there had been luck, but also cunning at the beginning of what was to become English`s most subtle and ruthless characteristic of all: its capacity to absorb others. (Bragg, 2004: 2). On the other hand, some linguists have different opinions.

Whereas speakers, qua human beings, have the power to assess the future consequences of their actions, linguistic or otherwise, and modify their behavior accordingly, sound change can only proceed remorselessly on, leaving the speaker to do the best he can to mend any pieces of language that get broken in the process. (McMahon, 1994: 332).      
The study of language change is the branch of historical linguistics. It is concerned with the changes of a language or languages over time.

For the better part of the century, linguists have traditionally made a sharp distinction between two branches of their subject: synchronic (the study of particular language states as they exist at particular times), and diachronic (the study of linguistic change or linguistic history). In a sense this distinction is well-taken; intelligent study of linguistic past relies on linguistic present. (Lass, 1997: 9,10). Language change is an unavoidable process which is rule-governed. Every natural language changes in its various elements and ``change is part of the nature of human language``.


1. Akmajian Adrian, Demers Richard, Farmer Ann and Harnish Robert. (2001). Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. Cambridge: Mit Press.

2. Baugh, Albert and Cable, Thomas. (2002). A History of the English Language. London: Routledge.

3.  Brag, Melvin. (2004).  The Adventure of English. New York: Arcade Publishing.

4. Lass, Roger. (1997).  Historical Linguistics and Language Change.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

5. M. S. McMahon, April.  (1994). Understanding Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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