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Lecture 2 – The evolution of the language


 

1. Evolution of the language.

2. Statics and dynamics in the language History.

3. Concept of linguistic change.

4. Rate of linguistic changes.

 

1. The evolution or historical development of language is made up of different facts and processes. It includes the internal or structural development of the language system, its subsystems and component parts. The description of internal linguistic history is usually presented in accordance with the division of language into linguistic levels. The main, commonly accepted levels are: the phonetic and phonological levels, the morphological level, the syntactic level, and the lexical level.

The evolution of language also includes “external” history of the language: the spread of the language in geographical and social space, the differentiation of language into functional varieties (geographical variants, dialects, standard and sub-standard forms, etc.), contacts with other languages. Most of these features are connected with the history of the speech community, e.g. with the structure of society, the migration of tribes, economic and political events, the growth of culture and literature.

2. We can note that there exist certain permanent properties to be found in all languages at any period of time, such as e.g. the division of sounds into vowels and consonants, the distinction between the main parts of speech and the parts of the sentence. In addition to these universal properties, English, like other languages, has many stable characteristics, for instance, some parts of the English vocabulary have been preserved through ages; to this stable part belong most of the pronouns, many form-words and words indicating the basic concepts of life. Some grammatical categories, e.g. number in nouns, degrees of comparison in adjectives, have suffered little alteration while other categories, such as case or gender, have undergone great changes. The proportion of stable and changeable features varies at different historical periods and at different linguistic levels but there is no doubt that we can find statics and dynamics in the language.

3. A linguistic change begins when alongside the existing language units — words, forms, affixes, pronunciations, spellings, syntactic constructions — there appear new units. They may be similar in meaning but slightly different in form.

Linguistic changes can be classified in accordance with linguistic levels: phonetic and phonological changes (also sound changes), spelling changes, grammatical changes, including morphology and syntax, lexical and stylistic changes.



A new feature — a word, a form, a sound — can be recognized as a linguistic change only after it has been accepted for general use in most varieties of the language or in the Literary Standard.

As known, language is a system of interrelated elements, subsystems and linguistic levels. Every linguistic unit is a component part of some system or subsystem. The alteration of one element is part of the alteration of the entire system as it reveals a re-arrangement of its structure, a change in the relationships of its components. That is why we can say that linguistic change has a systemic nature.

4. Linguistic changes are usually slow and gradual. Changes are usually unnoticed for the speakers. Different parts or levels of language develop at different rates. Vocabulary can change very rapidly. Lexical changes are easy to observe. New words are usually build in accordance with the existing ways of word-formation which are very slow to change; the new formations make use of available elements — roots, affixes — and support the productive word-building patterns by extending them to new instances.

The system of phonemes cannot change rapidly and sudden because it must save the oppositions between the phonemes required for the distinction of morphemes. Sometimes phonetic changes affect a whole set of sounds.

Likewise, the grammatical system is very slow to change. Being the most abstract of linguistic levels it must provide stable formal devices for arranging words into classes and for connecting them into phrases and sentences.

 

Glossary:

Division – [dɪ'vɪʒ(ə)n] – деление, разделение

Feature – ['fiːʧə] – особенность, характерная черта

Permanent – ['pɜːm(ə)nənt] – постоянный, неизменный (syn. stable)

Alteration – [ˌɔːlt(ə)'reɪʃ(ə)n] – изменение (syn. change)

Interrelated – [ˌɪntərɪ'leɪtid] – взаимосвязанный

Gradual – ['grædjuəl ] – постепенный

Rate – [reɪt] – темп; скорость

Instance – ['ɪn(t)stən(t)s] – пример, случай

Glossary of Terms:

Affix – ['æfɪks] – аффикс

Degrees of comparison – [kəm'pærɪs(ə)n] – степени сравнения

Linguistic level – слой языка, языковой уровень

Consonant – ['kɔn(t)s(ə)nənt] – согласный звук

Morpheme – ['mɔːfiːm] – морфема

Pattern – ['pæt(ə)n] – образец, структура, шаблон

Phoneme – ['fəuniːm] – фонема

Pronunciation – [prəˌnʌn(t)sɪ'eɪʃ(ə)n] – произношение

Root – [ruːt] – корень (слова)

Spelling – ['spelɪŋ] – орфография, правописание

Word formation – словообразование

Questions for discussion:

1. What is internal development of the language system?

2. What are mainly accepted linguistic levels?

3. What does external history of language include?

4. Name some permanent properties that can be found in any language.

5. Name some grammatical categories that have undergone great changes during the language development.

6. Why can stable and changeable features of the language vary?

7. What is linguistic change?

8. How can linguistic changes be classified?

9. When can a new feature be recognized?

10. Why does linguistic change have a systemic nature?

11. How does vocabulary change?

12. What is the speed of changes in phonetic and grammar systems?

 

Find out: What is language variety? (Dialect, Standard) What is grammatical category? What is morphology? What is syntax? What is morpheme? What is phoneme?

Assignment: Write the main parts of the word. Write the main parts of speech. Write the main parts of the sentence.

<== предыдущая лекция | следующая лекция ==>
Lecture 1 – The subject of the history of the English language | Lecture 3 – Old Germanic tribes

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