Language – In Time And Space

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A look at how the English language is constantly evolving. Words used, and the meaning of those words change over time. For example, in the 1940s a “wireless” was the word used to describe what we now call a “radio.” Today, “wireless” has taken on a totally new meaning, associated with “wireless headphones”, “wireless internet” etc..

Variation is a term used to explain the process whereby two native English speakers can understand each other but may not speak exactly the same i.e. Scottish, Australian etc. Variation is the product of change. Populations with common languages separated over time, the forms of speech changed independently and thus the languages separated. This variation is seen in the form of different dialects and accents.

There have been many studies relating to the variation of detail within the English language. An easy variation to identify  is that between English dialects when pronouncing words that end in “er.” From the 19th century onwards, local dialects in Northern England began to drop the “er” and replace it with an “a” sound. For example, “butter” became “butta” , “shiver” became “shiva” etc. This variation was also carried into forms of English that developed in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Studies have also illustrated that social status can determine language variation. Speakers with a higher social status and education are more likely to pronounce words in their full and proper form. Studied in the field of Sociolinguistics.

Another theory of language variation looks at the separation of human populations across the globe. Language (as a form of communication) is a naturally inherited characteristic of the human species. Particular forms of language are aspects of specific human societies. As these societies drifted apart over time, languages developed independently of each other. Studied in the field of cultural linguistics.

The mastery of speech develops in early childhood. Language structure is fixed before the teens. Other theories look at language change being consistent with societal changes. There is also the theory that language changes from one generation to the next, and the speech mastered is determined by that spoken in communities in which children grow up.

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