3. Causes and Mechanisms of Language Change

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2. What is the difference in operation and the relationship between sound change and analogy?

• Both analogy and sound change create new forms in a language

• X sound change is often regular but it often creates irregular patterns, whereas analogy is irregular and may be sporadic but it removes the irregularities

• E.g. regular sound change umlaut (back vowels were fronted due to the presence of a front vowel in a later syllable): brother → brethren X irregular analogical change using the non-alternating singular/plural pattern in such nouns as sister → sisters: brother → brothers

• “Sound change is regular but often causes irregularities, analogy is irregular and causes regularity”

3. List and briefly define internal causes of language change.

a) Factors contributing to change of which the speaker is more or less unconscious:

• Ease of articulation – the speaker exerts the least effort in articulating sounds → assimilation of neighbouring sounds, omissions and clipped forms

• Perceptual clarity – the hearer requires maximally distinct sounds (works against ease of articulation)

• Phonological symmetry – structurally balanced phonological system → language acquires sounds to fill gaps and eliminate sounds that cause asymmetries (e.g. [ž] added to match already existing [š], etc.)

• Universal tendencies – e.g. devoicing of final consonants, the loss of final n’s, development of function words and inflections from full words, etc.

• Efficiency or transparency – to achieve a one-to-one relationship between grammatical form and meaning (e.g. noun plurals indicated by -s, etc.)

b) Factors of which the speaker is more or less conscious:

• Spelling pronunciation – the speaker pronounces a word as it is written rather than as it is conventionally pronounced (e.g. t in often, l in almond, h in forehead, p in clapboard, etc.)

• Hypercorrection – the speaker may correct a mistake which is not, in fact, a mistake (e.g. cheddar - [tʃetə] instead of [tʃedə], between you and I instead of you and me, etc.)

• Overgeneralization – the speaker overgeneralizes a linguistic rule, applying it in contexts where it does not hold (e.g. product - [proʊdəkt] instead of [prɒdəkt], boughten instead of bought, etc.)

• Analogy – the speaker alters the form by analogy with another form with which it is related, thus eliminating irregularities in the language (e.g. teached instead of taught, pled instead of pleaded, etc.)

• Renewal – the constant need of renewal of emphatic forms and euphemisms as they cease to convey emphasis or fail to be recognized as euphemisms (e.g. very replaced by totally, hugely, massively, awfully, terribly…, originally a euphemism intercourse replaced by sexual relations, etc.)

• Reanalysis – the user of the language develops a new understanding of the structure of certain phrases (e.g. according to him: originally past participle according + prepositional phrase to him → now complex preposition according to + object him)

4. Define terms: spelling pronunciation, hypercorrection, analogy, reanalysis, substratum, superstratum, grammaticalisation, conservative and innovative change.

• Spelling pronunciation (see above)

• Hypercorrection (see above)

• Analogy – a process by which one form becomes like another one with which it is somehow associated (such as having the same function) (e.g. following the pattern of bus pluralizing to buses, one might form the plural of ox as oxes, etc.)

- two types of morphological analogy:

a) one that affects the stem (e.g. leaf – leaves X scarf – scarfs/scarves, etc.)

b) one that affects affixes (e.g. stone – stones, not OE stanas X child – children, etc.)

+ false analogy – children’s mistakes (e.g. foot – foots, etc.), back-formation (e.g. babysit from babysitter, etc.)

• Reanalysis (see above)

• Substratum (see below)

• Superstratum (see below)

• Grammaticalisation – a process by which a word with full lexical meaning becomes a lexically empty grammatical marker, it may also be reduced phonetically and become and inflection (e.g. OE to, originally a full preposition that took a (verbal) noun object, serves in ModE as a grammatical marker signalling the non-finite form to follow and it is often phonetically reduced to [tə]; OE full lexical verbs shall, will → ModE auxiliary verbs, markers of the future, etc.)

• Conservative change – change that causes no change in the distinction made (by analogical change, grammaticalisation), only a change in its formal marking (e.g. the use of -s plural marker instead of the OE inflections)

• Innovative change – change that causes grammatical distinctions be added to or lost (e.g. loss of dual number, of grammatical gender, of the second-person singular pronoun, etc.)

5. Explain the effects of language contact.

• Language contact – external causes of change caused by encounters with other languages or different dialects of the same language

• Three types of the effects of other languages:

a) contact-induced language change

b) extreme language mixture (leading to pidgins, creoles, bilingual mixed languages)

c) language death

  c.a) “suicide” (the speakers import new forms from a prestige language until features of their original language are no longer    
  c.b) “murder” (one language is supplanted by another, dominant one, which speakers adopt for various reasons)

• The most vulnerable component of a language to change – the vocabulary (being augmented by borrowing or loan words = copying them)

• Reasons for borrowing vocabulary:

- the lack of the world for a thing or a concept

- the foreign term is shorter or simpler

- the foreign term captures a nuance of meaning that we lack

- the language from which the word comes may carry prestige or dominate in a particular field

• Loan words generally become anglicized both phonologically and morphologically, phonology and grammar typically remain untouched

• Contact works in three ways:

a) substratum – the language of the dominated group influences that of the dominant group (e.g. the minor influence of the Celtic languages on English, etc.)

b) superstratum – the language of the dominant group influences the languages of the dominated group (e.g. the influence of English upon the German, Ukrainian, Italian, Hindi, etc.)

c) adstratum – a mixture of languages spoken by groups of equal political and social power (e.g. on the border areas or confined geographical areas)

6. Explain the relationship between variation and language change.

• Linguistic variable – a set of variant forms that can be used to serve a given function (“a number of ways to say the same thing”)

• The choice of one variant over another is mostly determined by age, sex and social class of the speaker

• Variation occurs in all areas of language

• The frequency of variants is relative, not absolute

• Language change can occur only if such variables exist and are used in face-to-face conversation among speakers

• All language changes start with variation, but not all variation leads to language change

• Some linguistic variables are relatively stable over time (e.g. -ing), some variants are displacing others (e.g. have to displacing must)

7. How can we determine the sounds of a dead language?

• Working exclusively with written records

• Variety of clues must be pieced together:

a) the statements of contemporary grammarians, lexicographers and other writers

b) puns, word plays and rhymes in the literature

c) the representation of natural sounds in onomatopoeic words

d) scribal variations and non-standard spellings that often reflect actual pronunciations

e) the development of a sound in closely related languages

d) the structure of the hypothesized phonological system that is assumed to be similar to the modern one (tending towards symmetry, pairing voiced and voiceless consonants or back and front vowels, etc.)

8. List and briefly define types of sound change including the conditioned and unconditioned types.

• Two classes:

a) unconditioned change – every instance of a particular sound change, regardless of its phonetic environment

- common for an entire class of sounds – sound shift (the First Sound Shift, the Great Vowel Shift)

b) conditioned change – particular sound change only in certain phonetic environment, the operation of the change depends upon the neighbouring sounds (= conditioning environment)

• Assimilation – a sound becomes similar to a neighbouring sound in voicing, manner of articulation or place of articulation (e.g. -band is added to house, the final [s] of the root is voiced to [z] to match the voiced [b] → partial assimilation; -man added to wif, the [f] becomes [m] to match the following [m] → complete assimilation)

  - regressive assimilation – one sound reaches back to effect the preceding one
  - progressive assimilation – one sound reaches forward to affect the following sound
  - distant assimilation – the sound to which another sound assimilates is in the neighbouring syllable

• Dissimilation – a sound becomes dissimilar to a neighbouring sound (e.g. [r] in Latin peregrinus dissimilated to [l] in Modern English pilgrim, etc.)

• Addition of a sound – prompted by the difficulty of coordinating articulatory movements

- common for a stop to be inserted in sequences of nasals, liquids and fricatives (e.g. OE spinel > ModE spindle; ME slumere > ModE slumber; pronunciation of prince with [t] between [n] and [s]; ME soun > ModE sound (at the end – excrescent stop), etc.) + schwa (e.g. chim/ə/ney, etc.)

• Loss of a sound

- loss of an initial vowel (e.g. opossum > possum, etc.)

- loss of a medial vowel – syncope (e.g. mem(o)ry, etc.)

- final loss – apocope (e.g. OE sunu > ModE son, etc.)

- simplification of a consonant cluster (e.g. loss of the initial consonant in knit; medial in godspel > godspel; final in dumb, etc.)

• Metathesis – the reversal or reordering of two sounds (common with sequences of liquids and vowels or of fricatives and stops) (e.g. OE beorth > ModE bright, etc.)

• The types of sound changes listed above affect only individual lexical items and do not generally alter the phonological system itself

• The changes that may affect the language inventory of distinctive (or contrastive) sounds: merging or splitting of sounds, allophone becoming a morpheme (phonemicization), losses or additions of sounds, altering of any aspect of the articulation of a vowel or consonant (diphthongization, monophthongization, reduction), vowel changes (lengthening, shortening), consonant changes (labialization, velarization, palatalization, fricativization, rhotacism, lenition, vocalization, voicing/devoicing)

9. List and briefly define types of semantic change.

• An alternation in the lexical meaning of words and morphemes

• Generalization – the widening in scope of a word’s meaning, allowing it to denote a greater variety of referents → a reduction in the number of semantic features (e.g. holiday originally referred only to “holy days”; crisis to “a turning point of a disease”; carry to “transport in a vehicle”, etc.)

• Specialization – the narrowing in scope of a word’s meaning → the number of referents of the words decrease (e.g. sermon originally referred to “a speech, discourse”; cellar to “a storehouse”; meat to “food”, etc.)

• Pejoration – the acquisition of a less favourable meaning, a lowering in the value judgment associated with the referent (e.g. villan originally referred to “a low-born or common person”; poison to “potion, drink”; cunning to “knowledgeable”, etc.)

• Amelioration – the acquisition of a more favourable meaning, an elevation in the value judgment involved in the referent (e.g. mansion originally referred to “a house, dwelling”; spill to “shed blood”; nice to “silly, simple”, etc.)

• Weakening and Strengthening – the use of a word that is weaker than is required by the circumstances, context (→ a kind of understatement that may lead to strengthening of that word) or the use of a word that is stronger than is required by the circumstances, context (→ a kind of overstatement that may result in weakening of that word)

- the use of euphemisms in order to avoid the direct terms for topics that are difficult to talk about (= linguistic taboo)

- the forming of euphemisms:

a) generalization – use of a wider or more general term (e.g. condition for “disease”, etc.)

b) splitting features – lessening the impact by dividing the semantic features between two words (e.g. pre-owned for “used”, etc.)

c) borrowing words – use of a neo-Latin of Greek pseudo-technical term (e.g. expire, etc.)

d) figure of speech – use of a metaphor (e.g. pass (away), etc.) or a metonymy (e.g. in his cups for drunk, etc.)

e) semantic shift – use of the name of one part of the process to denote another part (e.g. to go to the bathroom, etc.)

f) phonetic distortion (taboo deformation) – alternation of the phonetic form of the word (e.g. shoot, etc.)

g) diminutives – addition of a diminutive suffix (e.g. tummy, etc.) or the use of replication (e.g. wee-wee, etc.)

h) acronyms or initialism (e.g. TB for “tuberculosis”, etc.)

- the use of the hyperbole (common with intensifiers and expressions like I’m dying to = “I want to”, etc.)

• Figurative shifts – a transfer of meaning from one referent to another

- most widely known – metaphor, which contains an implied comparison based on similar semantic features of two referents (e.g. “He is a rat.”, etc.), when a metaphor dies, i.e. when the metaphorical meaning is no longer recognized but has become part of the denotation of the word, then a semantic change has taken place (e.g. eye of the storm, etc.)

  - shift from concrete to abstract meaning – often from physical to mental meaning (e.g. translate meant “to carry across”, etc.),   
  shift from abstract to concrete (e.g. essay meant “an attempt, a trial”, etc.), shift from spatial to temporal meaning (e.g. the  
  days to come, etc.)

- synecdoche – the name of a part is used for the whole (e.g. new blood, etc.) or a thing is named by the substance which composes it (e.g. a glass, etc.)

- metonymy – something is named by an object associated with it (e.g. the crown = “the king/queen”, etc.)

- synesthesia – a word referring to one sense is transferred to another or to non-sensual domain (e.g. a bright idea, etc.)

- a word naming an internal psychological state is used to refer to an external object evoking that state (e.g. dreadful occasion, etc.) or vice versa (e.g. happy person, etc.)

• Invited inferences – meanings which arise in context “on the fly” and must be inferred by hearers become part of the conventional, denotational meaning of the word (also called conversational implicatures)

- e.g. since – originally a temporal meaning: "Since dinner, I have been reading."

X in certain contexts – causal meaning: "Since he left, I have been sad." = after/because,

or the causal meaning becomes part of the denotation of the word: "Since you are rich, why don’t you buy a new house?" = because

• Cultural change – change to a word’s referents (e.g. picture – “a visual representation”, but also a cinematic movie, X-ray, a television image, a photograph, a computer-generated graphic, etc.)

• Social change – people imitating the usage of the upper classes or of authorities such as psychologists or psychoanalysts (e.g. an outgoing person is an extrovert, etc.) or sociologists (e.g. the person we admire is our role model, etc.) → popularization of these specialized terms

- or, people imitating the usage of the lower classes by adopting slang (e.g. leak for “disclose information”, etc.)