Causes of language change

The English language is one that is always and will never stop developing and changing. Dr Johnson and Jonathan Swift both tried to fix the language and both strived to make sure the language could never change. However, they both realised that this is an impossible feat. There are many factors that cause language to develop and change. These factors fall into two classifications. These are ‘External’ and ‘Internal’ External factors are to do with language chance that is not of the individuals personal needs. Such as factors that have predominated through an external social force.

An example of an external factor would be the ever-changing developments of technology. If something new comes into society then a lexical term needs to be to brought in for a referee. An example for technological developments would be ‘floppy disk’ 15 years ago this was considered a brand new lexical development, but now it is rarely used or featured in today’s conversations as it has been replaced with ‘memory stick’ Another example of an external factor would be fashion. E. g. the imitation of certain words through different social groupings will spread new fashionable and socially desirable terms.

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Fashionable things will come and go but some characteristics of a term may stay and imbed itself in the language, creating a recognised lexical term. For example, after the Russian Revolution, upper class pronunciations of Russian suddenly became undesirable so people tried to conceal their pronunciation. Foreign influences can change the language due to the borrowings of words or semantics from foreign languages. This factor can affect the following: * Phonology * Lexis * Structural change Moreover, the Pidgin forms of language in Britain may be why some youth cultures speak in simplistic forms.

Americanisms also illustrate foreign influences. E. g. ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Can I use your bathroom’ or ‘Do the math’ Child language acquisition can also affect changes in language, albeit only for a small segment of a child or a parent’s life. Children are not directly taught how to speak how we speak, they imitate and sometimes this doesn’t always happen and the child doesn’t imitate perfectly, therefore, the pronunciation of words may firstly be incorrect – thus changing the language. Moreover, children don’t learn some of the grammar that their parents do, as they don’t here it around a lot.

For example, the past tense of “help” use to be “holp” but because we have gradually regularised English words so that past tenses have acquired “-ed” on the end, this has died out of use. Another example would be “wed”, which is both present and past tense, but it already being given as “wedded”. Social ideas effect language as the language has been purposely changed to fit in with the ideas of a certain movement or minority. For example, the Political Correctness was changed to suit the views of a certain group. The PC move uses euphemisms to remove any alienating or exclusive terms.

These euphemisms change the language with new terms. For example ‘actress’ and ‘waitress’ have both been abandoned for ‘actor’ and ‘waiter’ to remove any gender refrences. Internal factors are to do with the way language changes as a result of the collective needs and psychology factors of individuals. Simplification, this refers to the fact that people like things a lot simpler, finding it makes their life a lot easier. Gradually, over time these simplifications modify and affect the language – thus changing the language.

For example, loss of inflections and assimilation. However, the loss of inflections was compensated for with the strict word order. Humans have always had a desire to communicate effectively, i. e. to be able to communicate effortlessly and quickly. Jean Aitchinson suggests that if language change was only due to how fashionable we sound or the drift of sounds then the language would soon up in chaos. Moreover, it seems the English language only borrows aspects from other languages as they easily fit easily into our own.

Therefore, the external factors according to Aitchinson are fairly superficial, concluding that there must be deeper psychological factors for which determines how or why the language changes. All of the above factors concentrate on human desires and their wish to communicate effectively or easily. However, language is always seeking more patterning and regularity, which, without we would probably forget our language. Consequently, language will always change to repair and improve the patterning.