Linguistic change can occur for many reasons; this paper intends to examine the factors that can cause such a change.
Linguistic change will be looked at in relation to, systemic regulation and variation. The main focus of the paper will concern contact between languages and how it can cause change in either one or both of the languages in contact. Moreover dialectal contact will be considered and examined in relation to changes that may result in hypercorrection.Often the simplest and most clear-cut reasons for change in a language result from contact with another language or dialect. It is important for further discussion to distinguish between two types of contact. The first, type A, is a stable and continuous contact between two neighbouring languages or dialects that are connected either regionally or socially. An example of this type of contact would be the contact social contact between English and Latin, which resulted in a large intake of Latin words for scientific terms because Latin was thought to be the more prestigious of the two languages (Graddol et al, 2000: 176).
A second variety of language contact, type B, which is more sudden, results from invasion or migration of a language speaking community to one which it is not normally in contact with (Samuels, 1972: 92). This type of contact can be seen in the Scandinavian invasion of England. In contact of type B there is a much quicker adaptation to the new style of language incorporating changes in grammar, phonology and lexis, than in contact of a type A situation.Johanson gives specific names to varying types of language contact situations. It is said that language A is the weaker of the two languages and that language B is stronger and more prestigious. A situation where the dominant language B influences the weaker language A would be known as adoption. Imposition is where the weaker language A influences the more prestigious B. In both of these situations elements of the new language would be either imposed or adopted into the old language, this results in the old language becoming more like the new language but still being different from it Lastly when the language of prestige, B, completely overrides the weaker language, A, this is known as a code-shift.
In this situation the old language is not maintained, and is given up in favour of a variety of the new language (Johanson, 2002:291)A further distinction is required when considering different languages in contact and not just different dialects. It is important to distinguish whether the language contact has taken place between competent bilinguals or between those with little or no knowledge of the other language. In a contact situation where there is a certain degree of bilingualism, such as in the Scandinavian invasion because Old English and Old Norse were related Germanic languages, there is a large transference of lexical items. This can occur for one or both of two reasons: firstly there may be a vacant space for the word not filled by one from the native language, or the new language, or the donor language, is held with greater prestige in the area that the new words are borrowed from. As a result the native language receives a vast amount of new words from the donor language (Samuels, 1972: 94).It is thought that Scandinavian speech was quite prestigious, mainly due to the fact that the King of England between 1016 and 1042 was Danish; this resulted in a large number of Scandinavian words being taken into English. Many off these words already existed in Old English such as heaven; in OE it was heofon and in ON it was himinn.
These words were lexically similar but inflectionally different, the inflectional differences could have been resolved by getting rid of them all together. This shows that the breakdown of inflectional endings could have been the result of more than just internal pressures. Differences between speakers in situations of language contact could have prompted or at least accelerated this change in English (Graddol et al, 2000: 120).
Although language contact can be most clearly seen in the transference of lexical items, it is important to remember that language contact can also affect change in the areas of grammar, phonology and phonetics. In considering phonology, it is often thought that features typical of the displaced language will reoccur in the adopted language. Strong supporters of this idea, put forward that the reason for this is that there are genetically transferred differences in the organs of speech. This view is however strongly contradicted by the strong regional accents exhibited by the children of Indian or African immigrants to this country. There is little doubt however that features of stress and intonation are transmitted through generations of the displaced language and that these variants can start a process of change in the phonemes of the adopted language (Samuels, 1972: 96).So far only contact of different languages has been considered, contact of different dialects can also give information about language change. Language change can occur because of the phenomenon of hypercorrection. In dialect contact some forms of the language are considered to be more prestigious than others, as in the case of RP and Scots.
RP was considered to be the more prestigious of the two languages and therefore many Scots speakers tried to imitate the vowel sounds made in RP. There is a concentration on the vowel sounds [e:, o:] to create the RP forms [eI, ?U] but speakers neglect to distinguish between the vowel sounds in pull and pool or in caught and cot, which in Scots are pronounced with the same vowel sound.These vowel sounds that the Scots speakers have identified as being typically RP will be inserted into words which would not have that sound in RP. This then results in a change in some Scots speakers pronunciation.
Moreover, when aiming at the vowel sound produced by RP speakers they are creating another vowel sound, which is not typically Scots, nor RP. Therefore another vowel sound has been created as the result of hypercorrection. This is just one way in which dialect contact can result in a change in the language, there are many others including the processes of standardisation and the polarisation of dialects of social origin (Samuels, 1972: 105-6).Language contact is not the only feature responsible for language change. Others such as systemic regulation can also cause dramatic changes in a language.
Systemic regulation is largely an unplanned process; it can result in changes such as the ongoing replacement of weakened grammatical forms by new marked forms in the language resulting in a circular alteration of phonemes, or on a larger scale grammatical restructuring. This change can be demonstrated by the gradual regrouping and simplification of noun declensions in late Old English and Early Middle English (Samuels, 1972: 155).Moreover change in language can arise from variation between speakers. This can occur in a situation whereby the speaker may use a form unknown to the listener, whether it is different phonologically, grammatically, or lexically. The variant is misunderstood by the hearer and reinterpreted; when this happens enough times the variant will cease to be a variant and will have been accepted into the general language. This can easily be demonstrated by the substitution of longer linguistic forms such as telephone, omnibus or television, for their shortened forms phone, bus and TV (Samuels, 1972: 10)This paper ha assessed the factors that can lead to linguistic change. Linguistic change was looked at in relation to, systemic regulation and variation and it was seen that both of these factors are important for lingutic change.
The majority of the paper focused on the contact between languages and how it can cause change in either one or both of the languages in contact. This was seen to be very important and was considered to show the simplest and most clear-cut reasons for language change. Moreover dialectal contact was examined in relation to changes that may result in hypercorrection. It can be seen that language contact is greatly important to the changes that take place in a language. Although, language will still change without contact with other languages through, standardisation of the variation in dialects and through the process of systemic regulation.