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A Level English Language

In: English and Literature

Submitted By reshe
Words 1652
Pages 7
Question

Using suitable examples, describe and comment upon some of the reasons for language change.

Language changes, as do all things in the living world, as language reflects and affects the society which uses it. The mechanics of language change show language as a system with larger and larger scale trends, which allows us to examine the conditions necessary for change.

The process of change occurs gradually, and the rate of this change does conform to a pattern. For instance, if you get an influx of foreign words, few people use them, and they spread slowly until people have become familiar with them. When they have, the word usage stabilizes.

Another factor affecting language change is hyper-correction. This occurs when a sentence is corrected so frequently that the deviant form becomes the norm in spoken English. For example, the sentence Jill and me went to the fair is often corrected to Jill and I went to the fair. The result of this is that the phrase and me has become disdainful and unacceptable. The ultimate effect of this is an exaggerated use of the term and I. For example, Mother gave the book to John and I is a deviant form which has become the norm in spoken English.

Research has also discovered many other reasons why language changes. William Labov conducted a study in America investigating the use of the letter r. He used three sets of shop assistants from high-class, middle-class, and lower-class stores and found that all three sets consciously used the more prestigious pronunciation of r. This was a conscious speech act, because in a more relaxed context the same people dropped this particular usage. Labov called this 'change from above', as the speakers were motivated to move up the social scale.

Labov also did some research on Martha's Vineyard, an island in the United States which is slowly changing from a quaint fishing...

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