www.whyville.net Jan 30, 2008 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

The Ever-Changing English Language

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All languages change and evolve. The English language has been evolving ever since the first settlers in the 1700s. Reasons for the change include the need for new words (all new things that are invented need a name), the different dialects and slang words of different age groups, education levels, and places in the country (a professor on the East coast probably does not talk the same way as a teenager on the West coast, and neither one of them would talk the same as a grandma from the south). The immigration of new words from other languages and the misinterpretation of the meanings or pronunciation of current words ("pease" once referred to a single or a group of the vegetable we now know as a "pea". People assumed "pease" was the plural, and the word pea was born).

The Early Changes

In 1735 the English were calling the American Language "barbarous," and referred to the "Americanisms" as barbarisms. For 100 years after the Revolutionary War, they continued to make fun of the language. The Americans were proud of their new language because it showed their new independence. In 1783, Noah Webster wrote "A Grammatical Institute of the English Language" which was used as a text book and was often referred to as the "Blue-backed Speller" because of its blue cover.

In 1828, Noah Webster wrote "An American Dictionary of the English Language". It had 70,000 words in it and used American spellings (ex. "color" instead of "colour", "music" instead of "musick"). The book took him over 27 years to write. Words that were no longer used in England, but were still used in America included allow, guess, reckon, meaning to think; bureau, meaning a chest of drawers; fall, meaning "autumn"; and gotten, where "got" was being used as the past participle of "get". Some words that were created by Americans include "ground hog", an animal that didn't exist in England; "belittle", coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1787; "bamboozle", meaning to trick or cheat; and "bluff", used instead of river bank. Contractions were introduced at this time also. After WWI, America was very patriotic and anti-foreign. In 1923, the state of Illinois said "The official language of the State of Illinois shall be known hereafter as the "American" language and not as the "English" language." The language continued to change into the 21st century.

The IM speak

With the popularity of IM (Instant Messaging) in the late 1990 and the new text messaging market, the younger generation has begun to speak in acronyms. Widely used IM slang includes BBL: Be Back Later, BRB: Be Right Back, JK: Just Kidding, LOL: Laughing Out Loud, LYLAS: Love You Like a Sister, NP: No Problem, and the ever popular OMG: Oh My God/Goodness/Gosh. These acronyms are beginning to be used not only in the online world, but in school papers and everyday speaking.

The "Quotative Like"

The word "like" is used as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, and to set off quoted statements. Examples of this can be found in almost all people ages 40 and younger. The Valley Girls in Southern California in the 1980s introduced the "Quotative like". The "Quotative like" is when "like" is used to introduce a quoted statement; ex: "He was like, 'I'll see you later'".

Is the English language quality declining?

It is widely believed the English language quality is declining. Is it? Well, the answer is, as they say, "in the eye of the beholder". Dr. Edward Finegan, Professor of Linguistics and Law at the University of Southern California says "most differences and developments [in the English language] occur with little notice at all." He believes the changes in the language are simple things such as pronunciation variations, misspellings, and apostrophes used incorrectly with plural words. Dr. Finegan also says, "A vital language will change as its speakers and writers live their lives."

Whether or not the language is, indeed, changing; it's obviously clear everyone everywhere would agree that the English language, and all languages for that matter, is changing. The changes that are occurring are normal and should be expected.

*Maglina was here*

Author's Note: Sources: www.legendsofamerica.com/AH-AmericanEnglish.html


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