• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Language Change: from Old English to Modern English.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Language Change: from Old English to Modern English. That the English language has changed momentously over the last 1000 years would appear as a given to a speaker of Modern English who reads or hears an Old English text being read for the first time. In fact, if the reader were not told that it was English, he or she might not even be able to identify it as a form of English. How has this happened? What are the factors of language change which have led to Modern English being so vastly different to Old English? Which elements of the language have these changes affected? What in fact is language change and how does it occur? These are big questions, about which indeed many books have been written. Anything like a comprehensive survey of the change from Old English to Modern English is beyond the scope of an essay of this length. In this essay, then, I have selected a few issues which relate to language change, coming at the topic from the perspective of a beginning student in this particular area. Hence I specifically look briefly at what language change is, and some arguments which attempt to describe how it occurs. I then outline some of the characteristics and developments distinguishing Old English from Modern English, taking the example of the reductive change in English morphology, focussing exclusively on this area as it is one in which I am interested and have some previous familiarity. ...read more.

Middle

the grammatical distinctions are a subset... of those drawn in German" (Hawkins: 1985, 12). On the basis of this statement and the comparison with the Old English and the Modern German cases systems I would like to present an hypothesis about a specific item where language change today may give us a clue about language change in Old English. The case system refers to certain endings placed on determiners, adjectives and nouns most often in order to specify certain categories of the noun, eg, the function of the noun phrase within a sentence (its case), its gender and its number in Old English (cf. Lass: 1987: 146). In Old English, as in Modern German, nouns had three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), two numbers (singular and plural) and could 'fall' according to four cases (nominative, genitive, dative and accusative). The gender of nouns was not ascribed naturally, but grammatically, that is, a noun's grammatical gender did not necessarily have anything to do with its gender 'in the real world' - hence Old English wifmann (woman) has masculine gender whilst m�gden (girl) has neuter gender (see Quirk: 1994, 19, 20). Compare Old English m�gden with Modern German M�dchen (girl), which also has neuter gender. Modern English has no markings for gender any longer except in pronouns where it distinguishes, albeit on natural rather than grammatical gender lines (ie, the pronoun for woman is nowadays 'she', because the noun refers to a female person), between the three with she, he and it. ...read more.

Conclusion

is now restricted to the most literary, officious and religious of texts and never appears - indeed as do none of the oblique case inflexions - in colloquial speech any longer. This change, completed hundreds of years ago in English, and a hundred years ago in Dutch now appears to have been triggered in German as well. In this change there appear the requisite linguistic variant and systemic regulation in that there is a choice between two construction and the realisation of a choice between a genitive and its alternative prepositional construction tends to be regulated by social status and usage. Is this one of the reasons that case endings were lost in Old English also? I cannot answer this for certain, but I would suggest, following the argument of this essay that it is a possibility. Conclusion. I have looked here briefly at some of the theory involved in language change, pointing out the principle of uniformitarianism which informs the theory, and touching on some of the mechanisms involved in language change. It appears that language is a dynamic system, constantly in a state of flux, always affected by outside factors, inexhaustible in terms of its future possibilities. I have also compared one of the more obvious aspects in which Old English is distinguished from Modern English: that of the move from synthesis to analysis in language. In comparing the old English system with the Modern German system also, I have ventured my own example of what I believe to be a language change in progress, suggesting that perhaps a similar process could have affected the English language also. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Language: Context, Genre & Frameworks essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Investigating how language has changed in children's literature; in relation to interaction between ...

    5 star(s)

    He realised he must be in the hospital wing. He was lying in a bed with white linen sheets and next to him was a table piled high with what looked like half the sweet-shop. 'Tokens from your friends and admirers.' said Dumbledore, beaming. 'What happening down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally, the whole school knows.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Language Aquisition Notes

    5 star(s)

    All these had an influence on the language, and helped it to become standardised (slowly - remember it didn't all happen at once). Where some English words have come from * English is a Germanic language * Some words can be Latinate - tend to be the more fancy, scientific

  1. The language situation in Kenya, and in particular the shift and choice of English, ...

    This shift occurred since the elite in the community stops using their native language, and now uses Kiswahili and English, which are regarded as the languages of prestige. What reinforces Language choice in Kenya? On attainment of political independence in 1963 from the British government, Kenya needed to build a national identity in order to enhance national unity.

  2. Investigation into Gender Differences in the Language of Personal Profiles on Dating Websites

    This could be the reason my data shows no notable difference in the use of empty adjectives. Past research into lonely hearts advertisements has found that males tended to advertise their financial security and ask for attractiveness in partners, whilst women did the opposite.

  1. Turn taking mechanisms in conversation.

    If nobody self selects then the current speaker may continue his turn until he selects another speaker, or another speaker self selects at the TRP. Simultaneous starts can occur when one or more speakers attempt to self-select at the same time, but turn is brief for later self-selecting speakers.

  2. Geographical Variation of English.

    Next, the Outer Circle comprises regions colonized by Britain; the spread of English in non-native region where the language has become part of the country's significant institutions and plays an important role as second language in a multilingual country, such as India, Singapore and Malawi.

  1. How do Politicians gain support through language? AQA English coursework

    By use of "the only effective challenge to Labour," here, the pre-modifier "only" implies that the Conservatives are an obsolete candidate for government. PRONOUNS The speeches use pronouns both in different and similar ways. When addressing the public Tony Blair uses the 2nd person personal pronoun, "you," for example, in

  2. An analysis of variations in style in comparison to Standard English.

    It can be defined as a certain kind of simplification. Instead of the Standard English Combination of two vowels in boat [b�ut] only one vowel is being used: [oo] The same phenomenon can be found within the pronunciation of words like made, which are not being pronounced [m�id] but simplified [mehd].

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work