i love english language

words which show language variation

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on November 12, 2011



Eighteenth century grammarians promoted the use of a single past tense verb rather than several different forms for the same verb. This has led to ‘saw’ becoming the past tense form for ‘see’, and the others such as ‘seed’ are no longer used by speakers who want to appear educated. This drive to reduce variation has partly been due to a desire to eliminate what was seen as redundancy in language. This has led to variation being fairly unusual and therefore when it does exist it seems to attract the attention of analysts. Jenny Cheshire names this the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’.


Jenny Cheshire addresses the idea of ‘never’ functioning as a negative marker. She notes that the conventional analyses see ‘never’ as an indeterminate, equivalent to ‘not ever’. However ‘never’ cannot be seen as equivalent to ‘not ever’ in situations where the time reference is to a restricted period of time, as in ‘I never went out last night’, where ‘never’ could not be replaced by ‘not ever’. Cheshire is making the point that conventional analyses miss this point, and it breaks the idea of ‘one form, one meaning’. Instead Cheshire states that instead ‘never’ in this context is labelled as ‘non-standard’, even though it is frequently used in this way in educated speech and in writing.

you know

Fillers such as “you know” were once dismissed as simply fumbles, but after rigorous analyses of their use in interaction, it has been revealed that they have important and varied function. Jenny Cheshire is showing that ‘standard spoken English’ does not take fully into account all the functions of certain words or phrases, and can dismiss them simply as non-standard English. Jenny Cheshire claims that our ‘frameworks of analysis conform to the views of language that we have acquired during our education rather than to the variety of language that we produce during face-to-face interaction.

tag questions

Early studies assigned tag questions a single function of simply expressing speaker insecurity and the desire to get approval from others, however later more careful analyses revealed a range of meanings and functions. Jenny Cheshire claims that conventional analyses forces us to look for simply ‘one form, one meaning’ and this can cause us to overlook the typical features of spoken language, where meanings are usually pragmatically determined.


Jenny Cheshire notes that conventional frameworks of analyses have no way of accounting for words that are becoming grammaticalized, and the meaning of the word is therefore undergoing grammatical change. ‘Like’ is becoming a marker of reported speech and thought. Therefore grammatical analyses have no way of accounting for variation in general. This is also evident with ‘going to’, which is now being used as a future time marker. Jenny Cheshire observes that the people typically writing descriptions of language are ‘middle-aged’ academics who have spent many years immersed in language, and therefore this speech is perhaps not representative of the speech of the majority of educated speakers of English.


Jenny Cheshire claims that the one form, one meaning’ structure of Standard English grammarians has led to semantic and pragmatic functions of the word ‘that’ being seriously misunderstood. It has previously been assumed that the fundamental meaning of the word is a distal spatial one, in opposition to ‘this’. However this meaning is only correct when it is in implicit or explicit opposition with ‘this’. There are other frequent meanings, such as the ‘empathetic’ ‘that’ in examples like ‘how’s that throat?’ it also has meanings as a relative pronoun and as an intensifier. Therefore Cheshire is showing how it is possible to identity a more basic function of ‘that’ which has been obscured in previous analyses. In her article “Spoken Standard English” Jenny Cheshire addresses an issue she notes in regards to the definition of ‘standard English’. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.


In spontaneous speech, Jenny Cheshire observes that there is often incorrect agreement when ‘there’ is used, and she believes we should look for an explanation for this. If you take an approach orientated at spoken language then you would note that the structure regularly occurs, and could therefore look at how it relates to factors which are important to speakers. Cheshire states that a big factor is the presentation of information, because spontaneous language is produced in chunks of information rather than in perfect sentence structures. In speech there is a preference for clauses to have light subjects and for new information to be presented at the end of a clause. Therefore the irregular ‘there’ construction fits into this pattern, with the focused presentation of new information. The grammars of Standard English cannot account for this.

s suffix

In non-standard English an -s suffix on present tense verbs is frequently seen, for example in ‘I loves Elvis, he’s great.’ There is not in examples like this, agreement between the verb and the subject, but they appear to have functions in topic management and in turn-taking, and they seem to occur as unanalysed wholes. Jenny Cheshire believes that we do not discover a discourse function and its effect on variation unless we specifically set out to look for it. What is glibly dismissed by grammarians of Standard English as non-standard forms, are very often important features of spoken language which it relies on to work: spoken language and written language work in different ways, so we should expect them to have different rules, and not suppose that any variation from SE is simply non-standard and a regional or social variation.

wh-descriptive clause

Jenny Cheshire considers clauses which start with words like ‘when’ or ‘where’ or sometimes even ‘there’, and the function of them is as a bid for a topic to be discussed, and are frequently used by teenagers when recounting an event. They are used almost instead of saying ‘do you remember’. Cheshire believes the speaker is attempting to propose a topic and at the same time invite others to take it up, which is a feature of what she refers to as “Standard Spoken English” as opposed to the SE of grammarians which is based on the written variety only, thus not allowing for the fact that written and spoken grammars must necessarily differ. What has previously been discounted as non-standard regional or social variations, are very often accounted for by the difference between standard spoken and written varieties.


This contracted form was once used by both the upper and middle classes in English society, but is now only used by the lower classes. Jenny Cheshire cites the industrial revolution as playing a part in the emergence of a new middle class who were insecure of their social position and therefore looked to grammars for guidance in their linguistic behaviour. This heightened awareness of social status contributed to the idea of ‘politeness’ and that the ‘correct’ form of grammar was a mark of politeness and high status. She states that the concept of spoken Standard English is problematic, but also that the grammatical structure of spoken English is not well understood. Cheshire observes the fact that our conventional descriptions of ‘standard English’ actually fit written English much better than they fit speech we produce, particularly because the situations we mostly speak in are informal ones.


New Yorkers were read a list of 12 words one being ‘tune’. They were pronounced in a standard and non-standard way ‘tyoon’ and ‘toon’ the participants then had to decide which one they used. Overwhelming results reported that people think they speak more prestigiously than they actually do. It also showed that more men were more accurate in identifying how they speak than women. 94 men were accurate yet only 64 women were. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


…and other verbs ending in -ing, Peter Trudgill in his Norwich Study wanted to see whether the speaker dropped the final g and pronounced this as -in’. 100% of lower working class in reading passage style used non-standard speech and pronounced ‘walking’ without the standard suffix ‘ing’ on the end. Whereas 0% of the middle middle class used the non-standard speech in pronouncing this. The non standard ‘walkin’ was more prominent in men than in women through all of the social classes. However women reported more use of standard speech whereas men over reported their use of non-standard speech. Trudgill noted that only 9-12% of people in Britain actually use Standard English, which raises the question how many speakers think they speak SE and don’t.


Standard speech pronunciation includes all the syllables of the word “because”. The word is shortened in non-standard to ‘cos’ removing the prefix ‘be’ this is used more by men than women. It is also used more by the lower classes as it is more efficient and also is seen to have more connotations as being ‘hard’ and ‘masculine’. Peter Trudgill  found that working class men report more non standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


Pronouncing ‘Tuesday’ with [yu] is seen as more prestigious than [oo] as in ‘Toosday’. In Willima Labov’s research 29 female’s results showed them over reporting the more prestigious form, yet no men over reported. New York participants over reported themselves as using the standard form more than they under reported and only 7 people in total under reported. Peter Trudgill’s research showed that working class men report more non-standard speech in their talking, non-standard speech is seen to have masculine, ‘hard’ connotations as do other aspects of the working class culture. Many men would prefer to be seen in this way. It is prestigious in its own way as it carries its own desirable masculine attributes.


I talk horrible

Missing off the suffix ‘ly’ to the adverb ‘horrible’ makes this sentence grammatically incorrect according to the SE dialect. In Peter Trudgill’s experiment in Norwich an informant stated ‘I talk horrible’ but when really asked about why they do not change the way the speak if they are unhappy with it, they admitted that although they do not talk with standard speech they didn’t really want to change as it would be considered foolish and arrogant by their family and friends. Women report that they use more overt prestige Standard English than they actually do. This dishonesty is not deliberate and shows that they are subconsciously dissatisfied with the way they speak and would prefer to speak with a more standard form. ‘No conscious deceit plays a part in this process, most of the respondents seemed to perceive their own speech in terms of the norms at which they are aiming rather than the sound actually produced.’


In 1735, a British traveller in Georgia, Francis Moore described that America had taken the adjective of nautical and perhaps Dutch origin: bluff”, meaning ‘broad, flat and steep’, to use as a noun for a sort of river bank. This river bank hardly existed in England which is the reason why England originally had no name for it. This is an example of the vocabulary of American English expanding to meet the needs of today, where new words are needed to describe new things. This beneficial change is contradicting the statement that American English had a negative effect on the English language. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.


Americans generally retain the r-sound in the common noun ‘mother’, unlike British which has lost it. This could perhaps show a counterargument to presciptivists who believe American is corrupting the English language, as this is an example of the Americans pronouncing the word as it is truly spelt. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.


Americans retain a secondary stress on the penultimate syllable on words such as ‘secretary’. The British however have lost both the stress and often the vowel, reducing the word to three syllables, ‘secret’ry’. This British pronunciation is evidence supporting the ‘Damp Spoon Syndrome’ position of some prescriptivists as derisively labelled by Jean Aitchison: that this pronunciation is a sign of how language is becoming lazier. This supposed laziness could also be instanced by Guy Deutscher in his theory of language change which ascribes economy as opposed to laziness as a motive for language change. He stated in 2005 that this is ‘the tendency to save effort’.


The old use of the verb ‘to guess’ which meant ‘think’ or ‘suppose’ is still retained by the Americans. This is evidence to show America is not ‘self-confessed linguistic vandals’ as prescriptivists say, as they are retaining the origins of English words, which have had a semantic shift in Britain. John Algeo argues that ‘a language or anything else that does not change is dead’ – reinforcing that diversity in languages is necessary for the language to extend to new uses and new speakers, and to retain its popularity.


The past participle ‘gotten’ is used in American English still such as in the declarative sentence ‘I’ve gotten a cold’, where in Britain we would use ‘got’ such as in ‘I’ve got a cold’. However, in America they do still use both past particle forms, which shows clearly the flexibility of American English, going against the idea that American is corrupting the English language. John Algeo argues against the belief of some people that American English is running the English language – in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. This prescriptivist attitude of people such as Francis Moore and Prince Charles, say that American English is a ‘barbarous language’ which is ‘very corrupting’. However, Algeo argues that ‘change is language is inevitable, just as it is in all others aspects of reality’ and that we should be open to innovation in the English language.


A recent British innovation in pronunciation is ‘conTROVersy’ where the stress is on the antepenult vowel, unlike American’s who pronounce it ‘CONtroversy’. This is because this British antepenult accent is unknown in America. That said, people in Britain thought at first that this pronunciation originated from the Americans due to the assumption that anything new is American, highlighting the dislike Britain’s have for the influence Americans have had on their language perhaps. This examples therefore shows that ‘both American and British have changed and go on changing today’ as John Algeo states.

we goes

the use of the present tense suffix with non 3rd person singular subjects is an indicator of vernacular loyalty as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that the frequency with which adolescent speakers use many non-standard morphological and syntactic features of the variety of English spoken in the town of Reading in Berkshire is correlated with the extent to which they adhere to the norms of the vernacular culture.

not going nowhere

Multiple/double negative. Indicator of vernacular loyalty for boys as Jenny Cheshire found it was spoken less in a formal situation eg school, and people who are more strongly adhering to vernacular culture use it more than people who are less adhering. However both groups of girls (belonging to and not belonging to vernacular culture) use it at the same frequency. It overtly symbolises belonging to the vernacular culture as people who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more. Jenny Cheshire found that speakers who are favourably disposed towards each other and who are working towards a common goal adjust their speech so that they each speak more like the other – linguistic accommodation – while speakers who are not working towards a common goal may diverge in their linguistic behaviour.


Ain’t used for negative present tense forms of be and have with all subjects. It overtly symbolises some of the important values of the vernacular culture, belonging and fitting in. Jenny Cheshire found that while it is an indicator of vernacular loyalty for girls, it doesn’t for boys. Girls who strongly adhere to the vernacular culture use it more than girls who are less adhering. Jenny Cheshire found that linguistic variables often fulfil different social and semantic functions for the speakers who use them. She notes that some features are markers of loyalty to the vernacular culture for adolescent boys but not for girls and vice versa, and that female speakers use non-standard speech forms less frequently than male speakers do.


Who am I speaking to? / To whom am I speaking? – is an example of a  well known ‘error’ in that a preposition (in this sentence, “to”) should never end a sentence. The nominative form of the relative pronoun “who” is also used rather than the oblique for “whom” which according to the standardisation of English should be used after a preposition. Lesley Milroy argues that the perception that this is an error came from the codification of the English language relatively recently in the history of language, whereby the need to have one form as ‘standard’ meant that other frequently used forms were cast as incorrect forming a prescription for grammar. This makes prescriptive arguments difficult as they can create problems such as the former of these two examples is normal in most contexts, whereas the latter will generally be interpreted as marking a social distance.

different to

in the sentences: “Martha’s two children are completely different to each other.” & “Martha’s two children are completely different from each other.” – Rather than “different to” the form “different from” should be used in this sentence according to the grammar of Standard English. However, there are arguments to support and oppose this rule. According to one writer, the reason for preferring “different from” is that “different to” is illogical, as nobody would say “similar from”. But others say that since “different to” falls into a set of words with comparative meanings such as similar, equal, superior, which require “to” there is reason to support this form. Lesley Milroy’s point is that where there is no reason for one form or the other, the Standard English form is no more than a convention – there can be no argument for many of the conventions of SE.

would could

Double modal constructions – ‘a good machine would could do it’ instead of ‘a machine would be able to do it’. These are mainly regional variations. There are some parts of speech that occur as part of spontaneous speech that would not be considered ‘standard English’ if written, as the grammatical rules do not apply. Jenny Cheshire argues that there are many examples of spoken English that would not be considered as standard written English, but that she believes are valid uses of the English language. Perhaps spoken Standard English should be broadened to include these. Where written Standard English only has one form, spoken English varies from region to region and generation to generation; Jenny Cheshire believes that this should be taken into consideration when looking at Spoken Standard English.

you was

Jenny Cheshire discovered that when speaking about minor criminal activity, those who agreed with it, those who were not against the crimes, tended to use grammatically incorrect structures: ‘you was with me, wasn’t you?’ and ‘I never went to school today’. This might suggest that lower class citizens (more likely to commit minor offences – statistically) speak less like standard written English than those who are more educated and higher class. Might suggest that it is a conscious choice to not speak Standard English in order to make oneself stand out more, be seen as more of the locality or class of people.

come down here yesterday

The use of present tense conjugation with time phrase rather than past tense e.g. ‘I come down here yesterday’ instead of ‘I came down here yesterday’. However you could not say ‘I come down here’ without a time phrase unless in context as there is no differentiation between the past and present tense so it would be ambiguous – ‘behaviour is influenced by our social background’ – shows that Jenny Cheshire believes that linguists should take into consideration people’s background, education, social status, wealth etc when making theories about language and variation. The national curriculum for English in England has highlighted that we know very little about spoken English and its differences to standard written English. It is mainly the grammatical structure of spoken English that is misunderstood. Jenny Cheshire explains that some of the theories used to describe spoken English may be biased because they are made by linguists who are exposed to lots of written English – therefore their speech will be influenced by written English more so than people who are not exposed to as much literature.


Saying “I was like don’t bother me” in an interview, despite excellent qualifications, will be detrimental to any application for a job. Language discrimination, based on such minor mistakes of spoken English will make a candidate with a London accent be rejected from interview. Sociolinguistics may argue that it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of linguistics grounds, just as it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of colour or race. James Milroy believes that “standardisation inhibits linguistic change and variability.” However, he thinks that it does not and cannot stop linguistic change from happening, no matter how slow the process, as standardisation “leaks.” Linguistic analysis tries to pinpoint the lexical and conversational functions of like and find out how it contributes to modern society and to our knowledge of changing use of English language. According to the prescriptivist, people must be stopped from speaking in this way as it is non-standard. However, it is a typical English for a certain age group in the UK.


In 1960, the spelling “all right” was required in textbooks. Changes have slowly been accepted over last 30 years as words have lexically compounded. “Alright” had been used in some cases before standard language accepted them. This is also the case with “all ready” or “already”. Because of notions of the “Queen’s language”, “the language of a great empire” and “a world language”, in the19th century, there was an additional powerful ideological influence on English language, and so a movement to establish and legitimise Standard English. So constructions such as “I saw” are deemed acceptable and “I seen” unacceptable. This shows successful standardisation in society and James Milroy describes this as “a high degree of uniformity of structure.” ‘Optional’ variation is suppressed and idealisations of standard languages are created. Competing ideologies occur due to vernacular maintenance opposing standard language speech.


Looking glass used for mirror and other such upper class forms of language that, with time, are merely viewed as quaint anachronisms, showing that language regarded as standard or mainstream is not necessarily the language spoken by those of the highest social class. Prestige language is therefore not identical in every respect with an ideal standard language and those with highest social prestige are not directly linked with their prestige of language. Indeed, stigmatised features of upper-class language have reflected features of lower-class language, shown through the dropping of g’s and h’s. James Milroy argues that this shows that it is very often stigma rather than prestige that connects society with language.


The American pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Jan” to a Scot and the Scottish pronunciation of “John” can sound like “Joan” to an American. This example shows how differences in vowels can make accents difficult to understand even to other English speakers. Professor David Abercrombie of Edinburgh said one of the “strands” of accent that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”, like in the “John” example, because these make one accent differ from another. John H. Esling argues that every individual has an accent even if they may think that they do not. Esling says accent is important because it shapes our character and communicates who we are. Accents can be used to tell where a person is from, what gender they may be, their age and even what occupation they have taken up. As well as having differences between accents in different areas, differences between individuals also exist. John H. Esling states we may also find it difficult to distinguish between accents of foreign speakers. However, if we are more exposed to that language, we can then work out which speech patterns are similar and which are different and work out how accents in that language differ depending on the part of the country they come from.


This is an example that supports Professor David Abercrombie’s “strands” of accent theory, that what one must distinguish is the “short consonant and vowel sounds which alternate in rapid succession”. It is the change in vowel pronunciation of the word “bacon” by Jamaicans as opposed to the Received Pronunciation of “bacon” which is distinctive. In the Jamaican accent, the word “Bacon” sounds more like the common pronunciation of “Beer Can”. The use of this pronunciation by Jamaicans distinguishes them from other people and so supports John H. Esling’s statement that “Accent defines and communicates who we are.” For example, if we were to hear somebody use this pronunciation on the radio, we would assume they were Jamaican.


John H. Esling says that although pronunciation varies between regions to give us the regional accents, we must also realise that we have individual accents. If we did not, we would not be able “to pick a friend’s voice out of the crowd.” Esling states that accent is not only relative to experience “but also to the number of speech features we wish to distinguish at one time.” One’s own accent will differ from their peers or colleagues but also from their own family. For example, Princess Anne was called “Enn” by her mother but she still pronounced her name as “Ann.” John H. Esling argues that most of us believe that the way we speak is the norm and that may be why we fail to recognise our own accent. We are aware of other accents when we meet people who do not speak in the same way as ourselves and by hearing different accents in the media. We may create a stereotype for a person with a particular accent – we listen and categorise according to what we have heard before.


John H. Esling argues that our accents can change and “we all leave parts of the speaking style of our early years behind, while we adopt new patterns more suited to our later years.” Dr Clive Upton’s work (he is a lecturer in English Language at the University of Leeds) supports what Esling says. His work shows that people speak different accents to their parents, change accents in their lifetimes, and speak differently for different audiences. One good example of somebody who changes their accent depending on who they are speaking to is Tony Blair – using the glottal stop in bottle instead of the “t” sound. Another example is of Edwina Currie (former MP in 1983) who changed her scouse accent so that she was more accepted socially. John H. Esling argues that our accents can change particularly as we grow older. How much they change depends usually on how much we choose to alter them and on social circumstance.


John H. Esling gives several reasons as to why a person’s accent may change. One of his reasons for accent change is wanting to adapt to your surroundings and blend in. He says, “If we were to leave our native place for an extended period, our perception that the new accents around were strange would only be temporary.” He says we would gradually change our accent “to accommodate our speech patterns to the new norm.” On the other hand, not all people want to change their accents and so keep their original accent to stand out from the crowd – this may be for overt or covert prestige reasons.  This supports what Martin Montgomery says in “An introduction to Language and Society” (1986) and he describes people who keep a more covert prestige accent as “working-class loyalty to non-prestige form”. He says that although people who do this recognise RP as having more overt prestige, they keep the “distinctive patterns of their own locality” in order to preserve their identity – such as “talkin” instead of “talking” as per Peter Trudgill’s study in Norwich.


The word ‘queue’ can also be pronounced in different ways using the pronunciation [kju] or [ku] it would be non Standard English to pronounce it as [ku] as RP would be [kju]. Peter Trudgill looked at a survey carried out in Norwich in 1974, correlating phonetic and phonological variables with social class, age and stylistic context. The relationship that obtain between linguistic phenomena and sex showed that women were more prone to be influenced by the overt prestige of the RP pronunciation, whilst men were more prone to be influenced by the covert prestige of the Non-RP pronunciation.


Is an aboriginal language word, which means ‘I cooked the wrong meat for them again’, which demonstrates the point of Nicholas Evans that just because a language has a different grammatical structure, it is not a lesser language and just as much meaning can be conveyed. The myth that “there’s no grammar in Aboriginal languages, that you can just chuck the words together in any order” is explained by the fact that, like Latin or Russian, most Aboriginal languages use word endings rather than word order to create meaning. So while it is true that words can be put in any order, it does not indicate a lack of grammar. Some Aboriginal languages work use such highly complex verbs able to express a complete sentence.


Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. The preconception that the vocabulary is very limited in Aboriginal languages is addressed by explaining that in many lexical fields, Aboriginal languages are much more extensive than English. For example the word “Kalurlhlurlme” in the Aboriginal language “Kunwinjku” is used for “the hopping of an agile wallaby.” Kunwinjku has many different verbs to describe the different manners of hopping of various Macropods where other languages like English do not as they have not had the need.  As there is no equivalent in English, it could be said that in this case English is an inferior language.


There are cases in Aboriginal languages where there is no existing term in a language to cover new concepts, which contact with Europeans and late 20th Century technology has brought. However creating words from scratch to deal with new concepts is an unusual way of doing this in any language. Ray Harlow says that “Computers weren’t talked about in Old English; Modern English is the same as Old English, only later; it should follow that Modern English cannot be used to discuss computers. This is clearly absurd.” The three usual methods of developing terms for new concepts are: using existing words and compounding or affixation is used. (e.g. downsize), borrowing words from other languages (sputnik = fellow traveller in Russian), or extending the meanings of existing words (e.g. surfing the internet). An example of compounding in Kayadild, an Aboriginal language, would be the creation of a word for tobacco (wadubayiinda) by compounding wadu ‘smoke’ with bayii ‘to be bitten’. This logical compounding demonstrates the flexibility of any language and how it changes to suit needs of speakers.


The word for car, duljawinda literally means ‘ground-runner’. This is a logical compounding of two existing words to create a new word to fit the needs of the speaker. This is done frequently in German which is never called a primitive form of language.  For example the word for pollution in German is “umweltverschmutzung” which compounds the words “world” (umwelt) and “dirtiness” (verschmuzung) to create a logical new word to suit the needs of the speakers of the language. The myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language” links in with the belief that some people hold, that some languages aren’t as good as others. Nicholas Evans argues that the Aboriginal languages have adapted to their needs and adapt to any other external changes, such as technological developments, just as effectively as any other language.


When borrowing words from different languages, often the pronunciation of the word can be changed to the point where the original source is not recognizable: the English word ‘hospital’ ends up as wijipitirli in Walpiri. Ray Harlow argues that the need to borrow words does not show flaws in languages, as borrowing words from other languages is a feature of all languages and shows the adaptability of Aborigine languages. This explains the point that Ray Harlow makes about the myth that some languages aren’t as good as others and he asks “good enough for what?” He states that languages have evolved over time to suit the needs of the speakers. For example the ability of languages like English or German to explain Nuclear physics, is often given as evidence of these languages superiority. However the ability to speak about nuclear physics was never an intrinsic part of the languages, but instead they have adapted to suit the need to talk about nuclear physics. Extending the meaning of existing words has also been a common solution in many aboriginal languages, which some people think are not as good as western or mainstream languages. For example in Kunwinjku, kun-denge means ‘foot’ as well as ‘wheel’.


The wide use of the German word “Schaden-Freude” is an example of borrowing in English where there is no English equivalent. Borrowing words from other languages is sometimes seen as a weakness in a language but, maintaining the flexibility to use words from other languages to express certain concepts is vital in maintaining the expressive ability of a language. Nicholas Evans attempts to dispel the myth that “Aborigines speak a primitive language”. He writes that this myth constitutes a number of ‘sub-myths’ which are, that there is just one Aboriginal language, that Aboriginal languages have no grammar, that the vocabularies of Aboriginal languages are simple and lack detail or that they are cluttered with details and are unable to deal with abstraction, and that Aboriginal languages may be alright in the bush, but they can’t deal with the twentieth century. English I only the language it is today through extensive borrowing and change – something any language can do. “Combinations of compounding and extension are a common way of dealing with novel concepts- when a text on nuclear physics has to be translated into an Aboriginal language such as Walipri, for example, a new compound verb was coined to mean ‘cause nuclear fission’ by using root meaning ‘hit’ and an element meaning ‘be scattered’. The fact that Walpiri can now be used to discuss central concepts of nuclear physics is clear testimony to the adaptability of Aboriginal languages.”


The long ‘a’ vowel- [a:] is used in the speech of Southern regions of England. It is a feature of RP, the Standard English, which, although not as popular as it once was, still encourages prejudice. Hearing someone speak with the long ‘a’ vowel in words like ‘grass’, ‘task’ and ‘past’ often makes people think that they are better educated than say a Northerner who would use the short vowel [a] in such words, when in fact the true case could be the exact opposite; it is simply that we have grown up to think of this as the superior form of speech. Dennis R. Preston looked at studies which asked people from different regions of the U.S. to rate the degree of ‘correctness’ of English spoken in the fifty states from 1- ‘worst English’ to 10- ‘best English’. In a study asking 150 Michigan respondents, the lowest ratings were given to the South and NYC. Michiganders also gave their own state a ranking in the ‘8’ range showing that they have ”linguistic security”, Also, when asked to label where they thought various dialect areas were, two of the three most drawn areas were the South and NYC. The South was also drawn most by people from South Carolina, NYC, Oregon and many more as well. The studies found, interestingly, that when answered by Southerners themselves (in Alabama), that they again list NYC as one of the ‘worst-speaking’ areas and, in contrast to the Michigan respondents, don’t rank their own area in the South as one of the best, instead giving it a middle-rank of 5. This shows they suffer from “linguistic insecurity”. In another study asking for rankings of ‘pleasantness’ of dialect rather than ‘correctness’, the Southerners conversely gave themselves the highest ranking and then ranked Northern areas like Michigan very low on ‘pleasantness’. The two things that the Michigan and Alabama respondents do agree on is that NYC is at the bottom of the scale for both ‘correctness’ and ‘pleasantness’.




Rhoticity and post-vocalic ‘r- pronouncing the ‘r’ in words after a vowel. In England this pronunciation is increasingly restricted to the West Country and the far South West and a small area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester, but it remains a feature of most Scottish and Irish accents. In England, this is a particular example of a dialect feature leading to stereotypes and prejudice and if you pronounce this ‘r’, being most likely from the West Country, people automatically assume you must live on a farm and are fairly uneducated. On a positive note, like how the NYC dialect was found to be the most unpleasant and how the Southern dialect was often found to be pleasant in the studies observed by Dennis R. Preston, this rhoticity in the accent of people from the West Country is often viewed to be pleasant and people assume such speakers are often happy and friendly.



‘Like’ insertion, the frequent use of the filler ‘like’ which carries no semantic meaning, is considered grammatically incorrect or non-standard i.e. it diverges from what is considered standard English and so is often viewed as inferior. It is thought to have originated within Estuary speech and American-English speech and spread throughout the UK. This is often portrayed as a feature of the speech of ‘youth’ and immediately draws prejudice towards them.




In Estuary speech particularly London suburbs like Hackney, the ‘th’ sound often becomes a ‘v’ (or even an ‘f’ sound in words like ‘think’). Dennis Preston looked at how people buy into the idea that some different regional dialects are more correct than others. He investigated how people stereotype others because of how they speak and how everyone judges different dialects according to what is considered ‘standard’ so that they believe that some regional varieties are superior. The ‘standard’ variety of speech is imposed by the higher-status group in society on others and becomes a status symbol, so that where the regional variations differ a lot from the ‘standard’, the people who speak it are considered inferior. He says that ‘a primary linguistic myth, one nearly universally attached to minorities, rural people and the less well educated, extends in the United States’ (where his study was conducted) ‘even to well-educated speakers of some regional varieties. That myth, of course is that some varieties of a language are not as good as others.’


Th-fronting refers to the pronunciation of the English “th” as “f” or “v”. When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Th-fronting occurs (in many cases historically independently) in Cockney and Estuary English, as well as in many foreign accents. The use of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] for the dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] is a well known feature of Cockney and was noted by Peter Trudgill as spreading through non-standard accents in England. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. This is because the phoneme /f/ in words like ‘think’ and ‘thumb’ is non-standard English and considered inferior to traditional RP therefore the upper and much of the middle classes are reluctant to pronounce it. Pronouncing ‘th’ in such a way is often stereotyped to uneducated, working class people and not considered ‘good’ speech. Popular TV shows like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses have only served to reinforce this stereotype which is similar to the Southern American drawl stereotyping people as hillbillies as highlighted by Dennis Preston’s arguments on the prejudices which dominate our views on accents.


H dropping is a linguistic term used to describe the omission of initial /h/ in words like house, heat, and hangover in many dialects of English, such as Cockney and Estuary English.  This tendency to delete the initial <h> sound in words such as happy and house – first provoked comment in the eighteenth century and has been avoided by the middle classes. Such speech has also been popularised by programmes like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses of which both feature working class characters and who, in the latter, are often made out to be quite stupid. Therefore a strong tendency to H-drop and generally ‘talk cockney’ immediately inspires negative judgement on people. Sometimes speakers prone to H-dropping consciously seek to avoid it in formal situations and end up inserting an [h] inappropriately, resulting in often caricatured pronunciations such as honest with the [h] intact, or statements such as what an orrible hexperience. This phenomenon is known as hypercorrection, and might explain the increasingly common pronunciation of the letter h (aitch) as if it were haitch. If someone is heard adding h’s where they are not meant to be pronounced, they are often mocked and people consider them inferior.




‘Nae’ ‘Dinnae’ ‘Cannae’ ‘I dinnae ken’- Standard Scottish English Vs Scots. Major regions in Scotland (e.g. Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Inverness) have their own distinct accents and dialect words. In Edinburgh people are known for being of the upper classes and so have a dialect reflective of Standard Scottish English. However many Scottish people speak in what is called Scots and will tend to say “nae” for “not.” So, instead of the word “cannot,” the Scots would say “cannae.” Similarly, “do not” becomes “dinnae’. By the upper classes such as those more affluent and living in Edinburgh, saying ‘nae’ and speaking in Scots is viewed as inferior as it diverges from the standard English which is the overt prestige form and so, supposedly, indicates status. Such pronunciation is commonly heard in places like Glasgow, large and generally working class. This means that ‘nae’ and other lexis of the Scots dialect lead to people being wrongly perceived as working class, uneducated and in some cases as violent, like a drunken Scotsman.




The Vowel of foot appears in cup in the Midlands and North of England-The foot–strut split is the split of Middle English short /u/ into two distinct phonemes /ʊ/ (as in foot) and /ʌ/ (as in strut) that occurs in most varieties of English; the most notable exceptions being those of Northern England and the English Midlands. The first clear description of the split dates from 1644. The fact that the /ʊ/ sound of ‘put’, ‘could’ used in standard RP English is used for words like ‘strut’ and ‘cup’ too in regions of Northern England and the Midlands e.g. Manchester and Birmingham, rather than having split like speakers of standard English to pronounce the word ‘strut’ with a /ʌ/ sound shows a example of possible covert prestige. Although it is not considered standard and often by many, especially in Southern England, considered inferior, those who speak in such a way have diverged, looking to obtain covert prestige and hoping to distinguish and maintain their own separate identity like the native Martha’s Vineyard speakers observed by Labov.




Scouse is the name given to the accent and dialect found in Merseyside, England and most commonly linked with the city in that area, Liverpool. It is a very distinctive accent with many differences in pronunciation compared to nearby regions and cities like Manchester. Examples of this accent include the tendency to say the second person plural ‘you’ as ‘youz’, to vary the rising and falling of intonation a lot more than other Northern accents, and to realise the phoneme /k/ in all positions of a word except the beginning as /x/ or sometimes /kx/. The ‘Scouse’ or Liverpudlian accent is a very recognisable accent but not one that is often admired. Scouse is frequently ridiculed and it is satirised on TV programmes. Due to the fact that Liverpool is largely working to middle class, anyone who shows such features mentioned above in the way that they speak is subject to immediate judgement which is usually negative. Upper class RP speakers are especially wary of this accent.


The use of the non-standard come, as in “I come down here yesterday”, appears to depend on the gender of the speaker who is using it. It functions as a marker of vernacular culture for adolescents girls, but for the boys, it is used 100% of the time in their speech, no matter how much they adhere to the vernacular culture, and so is an invariant feature of their speech. However, both come and ain’t appear to act as markers as vernacular culture for the girls. Both features were used less by the girls who were classed as ‘good’ and for the girls who were deemed to have a similar vernacular identity to that of the boys, they were used almost 90% of the time.


The works of Cheshire in 1978 and Aitchison in 1981 suggest that the non-standardauxiliary do is undergoing a linguistic change away from an earlier dialect form and instead is moving more towards the standard English form. Of all the features examined, only the non-standard auxiliary do was used more often by the girls examined than the boys, however, this feature is undergoing linguistic change. All the other features are used less often by the girls, possibly because the girls who were observed did not form such structured peer groups as the boys, and so their vernacular culture was not as clearly defined.


words which show language change

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on November 9, 2011

‘up of ‘offee and ‘oo’ies 

 The’ elders of Idleford’ is a fairytale used by Guy Deutscher to describe the decaying of language. Firstly the ‘k’ was changed to ‘ch’ as the tongue only had to be raised half of the way it had been before. Then to make easier the ‘ch’ was made ‘h’ as the tongue did not have to touch the roof of the mouth at all. Finally an Idleford elder suggested removing this sound altogether. The fairytale was trying to show that “correct” pronunciation disappears due to laziness; however Deutscher believes that language changes due to the desire to be more efficient when speaking and make your point more quickly. An example of this is ‘ot instead of ‘hot’.


This is a word used by Guy Deutscher to illustrate his theory of “ease of articulation” – that sounds which are easier to articulate will replace those that are harder to say – this is an instance of the language becoming more efficient – which is a key factor in change according to Deutscher. “Heart” started as ‘kerd’ ‘k’ changed to ‘h’ ‘hert’ and then finally reached “heart”. This is an example which follows from the ‘elders of Idleford’ story about how we gradually change our language for ease and efficiency of speech. The sound ‘h’ is easier to say than ‘k’, because when we say ‘h’ we do not have to really move our mouth, or move our tongue at all, whereas the sound ‘k’ requires us to use our tongue and the whole of our mouth to a larger degree, therefore people will choose an ‘h’ sound over others due to how much faster it is to say.


‘Don’t know’ became ‘dunno’- Guy Deutscher states that ‘if one is to believe the authorities, (language) always changes for the worst.’ However this is only quoting the writer of the ‘Dictionary of the English Language’- Samuel Johnson – who wrote the first Englsih dictionary in 1755. The author uses examples throughout the article to demonstrate how language has adapted to become more efficient. Deutscher shows how the beginning of word is easy to lose because people want to save time when they are speaking, and this is done through the dropping of letters or syllables, especially from the start of words because they are of course come to first by the speaker, so are dropped to make a word shorter and allow the speaker to make their point more quickly.


This word originated from ‘hlaf-weard’ meaning loaf-warden or bread keeper. ‘hlaf-wead’ was shortened to ‘hlaford’ to remove a syllable, then ‘laferd’ until finally the word ‘lord’ which we use now, with just one syllable came about. Here Deutscher is using examples to show how the middle of words can also be gouged out, it is not just letters/syllables at the start or the end of a word that can easily be lost. This process of simplifying the pronunciation of words – thus making the language more efficient or more economical – is one of the three key drivers of language change according to Deutscher – the three being economy, analogy & expressiveness.


…pronounced ‘disturb’d’- This used to be said ‘disturbed’, with the ‘e’ pronounced like the’ e’ in ‘bread’ but the speaker tends to run out of steam by the end of a word, and believes that the listener generally knows what word they are saying, therefore ends of words are easy to lose because they are simply left off at the end, whilst the word being said is usually still clear to the listener. This is another clear case of economy driving language change for Guy Deutscher – a radical prescriptivist in that he does think language can change for the worse or the better – in his case for the better, as opposed to a conservative or traditional prescriptivist such as Lynn Truss who considers most change as a change for the worse.


Reduction in English of syllables in endings of words is something which has been going on for a long time. For example, there used to be two syllables used for plural endings, now there is just one. An example of this is with the second person ‘you her-est’, which has now just become ‘you hear’. This is likely to have happened because it felt too broad previously, and it is easier to say the latter more quickly. For Guy Deutscher – a radical prescriptivist – this would be evidence of the English language becoming more economical, and thus improving as opposed to falling apart like a crumbling castle as in Jean Aitchison’s parody of the prescriptivist position.


This is an example of broadening. This word is used so often today that the true meaning is less significant. It loses the force of its original meaning and therefore loses its power. The same happens with intensifiers such as ‘super-’ and ‘extra-’ which are placed in front of adjectives to give them more impact. This is an example of the semantic change in order to make utterances sound more intense, however after a while they lose their emphasis as they are overused in a non literal sense.  This is also seen with words such as ‘disaster’ – This is due to a wish to enhance expressiveness and give extra emphasis. Although many prescriptivists believe that language was once perfect and is now beginning to decay, it is in fact not a new thing. It is shown in the French language where new intensifiers were created to mean ‘no’ with more intensity. Guy Deutscher’s theory suggests that semantics of words change because people want to make utterances more intense to add emphasis to words which originally had little. According to Deutscher the English Language is getting better as opposed to worse in this instance. Expressiveness is one of the key drivers of change according to Deutscher: in the constant drive to improve the effectiveness of our expressions people use metaphorical constructions for great impact, which explains the movement of a word such as “brilliant” from meaning brightly shining, to being just one of a raft of words meaning very good that we have today, all because of an effort by one person initially to come up with a more effective word for very good in the past and opting for an original metaphor.

At all

This used to be an emphatic intensifier, for example used in the phrase ‘would you like anything whatsoever?’ However it is now losing its emphasis and going through the process of attrition, as it is now just used as an extended question marker which is often used when you are for example being served in restaurants or cafes to be polite. What was once a means, in Guy Deutscher’s theory, for making language more expressive, has now becoming a hollow phrase with almost no meaning. Language naturally moves this way, with words and phrase slowly being “bleached” of their meaning or impact, so we, as language users, have to be constantly be coming up with new and better ways of being expressive: making our meaning strong and effective.


This word started as the phrase ‘nothing whatsoever’ but was over used and so reduced over time, eventually becoming just ‘no’, the negative we use today. This is an example of attrition where words are reduced in order to be easier to say whilst still retaining their old meaning. This destructive force, in Guy Deutscher’s theory, is a natural factor in all language change – which is making our words easier to articulate and so making our language more economical. This can be seen in a language such as Italian over the centuries, where the end of word consonants have been worn away by constant use – through practitioners being more efficient or economical in their use of the word (though prescriptivists would term this laziness) – the result is that most words in Italian now end in vowels.

Wha (t) stupidity? & It’s ho(t)

In Language people often make a minor deviation from the norm which leads to language changing over time, as others imitate, maybe intentionally or not it leads to words being altered. People alter “t” to a glottal stop when it occurs before another word at the end of a sentence. It is a habit usually noticed and often censured. Parents are frequently heard upbringing children with comments such as “Don’(t) say ‘what’ in tha(t) sloppy way” not realizing their own speech shows a fluctuating t also. T-dropping, then, is a change against standard norm which emerges into public view when it occurs in certain environments.

walkin’ & talkin’

In standard British the –ng sound is pronounced, whereas (in Norwich) the pronunciation of “walkin’ ” is frequently heard, as if there was just an –n on the end. This is a remnant of an older style of speech and its widespread usage in the past is shown in rhymes and misspellings. Shakespeare, for example, used “cushing” and “javeling” for “cushion” and “javelin” which were both never pronounced with –ing and indicates that Shakespeare added the –g in because he thought it ought to be there in the spelling. Also, the alternation between local –in and standard British –ing has emerged into speaker’s consciousness and Trudgill found that higher classes used the standard British version and the lower classes stuck with –n. He also found that women wanted think of themselves as speaking the standard prestige form whereas men wanted to use the –n as it gave a desirable ‘rougher’ effect to their speech.

grawss & bawd

Deep rooted division in Belfast between Catholics and Protestants meant that variation in language was not surprising. Protestant men were better off and often employed than Catholic. So pronounced ‘grass’ as ‘grawss’ since that pronunciation marked the speaker as highly integrated members of the superior social network. Whereas the Catholic working class men used the pronunciation of ‘grass’ more. The pronunciation of ‘grass’ spread between the two religious groups through the women that worked at the city centre store. Girls picked up the accents from their customers and spread it to both Protestants and Catholics who were both customers of the store.


Shop assistant phenomenon; travel assistant in Wales varied the number of h’s her speech, depending on how many customers dropped their h’s. Shows how people chatting together imitate one another and pick up aspects of the other’s speech and accommodates it into their own = language change and spread. Aitchison presents the idea that changes move from group to group, sometimes via people who casually come into contact with each other and accommodate their speech to each other in minor ways, resulting in them picking up some of each other’s language and carrying it across when speaking with their other friends.

I knows how…

The use of non-standard verbs alternated randomly with the use of conventional forms in the speech of male and female adolescents described as ‘tough’ children. It was found that girls seemed more aware of the need to conform to Standard English in formal situations than boys. This shows language change as women tend to lean towards the standard prestige pronunciation.


This common noun is an example of how language develops because of social change. The word originally referred to a type of food but through the introduction of the internet and emails it is now used to mean junk mail. (This is also an example of semantic shift over time). Ray Harlow explains that languages that do develop to become widespread and popular do so because of social change. Changes in technology, law, politics and science mean new words are needed to meet the needs of the changing society.


This dynamic verb has been blended by Lewis Carroll using the already existing words “chuckle” and “snort”. This is an example of language developing from within.  This supports Jean Aitchison’s view and contradicts the “crumbling castle” belief that the English language is decaying because this is an example of development since Carroll gave us a new word to describe something. Ray Harlow explains that a way in which the vocabulary and structures of a language can develop is through developing “from within”. Harlow defines this as a language “using its own existing resources”.

to edit

This dynamic verb is an example of how words are formed through the process of ‘back formation’ – another example of how the English language has developed from within according Ray Harlow. The concrete ‘editor’ came previously before and therefore this shows how the English vocabulary is increasing over time to meet language demands.


This is an example of a German compound which has been formed using the two nouns, “Kinder” (children) and “wagon” (cart/trolley). In English, we have some compounded words like “laptop” which is an example of development from within and also a word that has been created because of developments in society. Ray Harlow argues that people should not say a language “isn’t good enough” just because it does not fulfil a wide range of functions. He says that some languages are only thought to be better than others because they have developed differently.


The concrete noun “Mosquito” has been borrowed from the Spanish language. A lot of words in English have been borrowed from other languages. This is because the English language either did not have a word for something or the borrowed word was preferred over an already existing word.  Ray Harlow says that English would have never become a language that fulfils a wide range of functions if it wasn’t for borrowing. He also says, “All languages do this some to extent, though English is perhaps the language which has the highest level of ‘borrowed’ vocabulary.”

 “ism” and “ize” suffixes

These suffixes are taken from the Greek language and are another example of how English borrows structures from other languages. This also supports Noah Webster’s belief that “had the English never been acquainted with Greek or Latin they would never have thought of one half the distinctions and rules which make up our English grammar.” Ray Harlow explains that a language’s vocabulary can develop through a process called “borrowing” and that English has borrowed from several different languages especially from Latin and Greek.




Ray Harlow suggests that languages which are more flexible tend to be the ones that develop the quickest and so become the most popular. An example of how English is a flexible language is that it is becoming more regular. People are accepting new forms of words in order to make the language more regular. For example, the past participle “learnt” exists alongside the newer past participle “learned”. Many English past participles are now adopting the “ed” ending. In the future we may start seeing past participles such as “taught” becoming “teached”.


Harlow argues that English is a language that can fulfil a wide range of functions since we have many words to meet the needs of technological and scientific advances.  This can be because many new discoveries are made in either America or Britain – both English speaking nations. For example the acronym “AIDS” stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” and this word is used by many  other languages to describe the disease since they do not have a word for it.


Through the introduction of ‘text speak’, new words have been formed in English language. The acronym “LOL” is an initialism for ‘laugh out loud’ and supports the infectious disease parody. This acronym is widening in use, first used only in writing via the Internet but more frequently it is now becoming a common word in everyday speech. Other languages are also following this pattern, for example the French equivalent ‘MDR’ (Mort de rire – died of laughing). Ray Harlow says languages develop to fulfil a wide range of functions but this example shows how words can develop to fulfil different functions.


People may think a language is “not good enough”, according to Ray Harlow, other than not being able to fulfil a wide range of functions, because people may think it is not attractive. He uses the Roman dialect as an example which some people used to think was “savage and wretched” because this reflected the behaviour of the Roman soldiers. Harlow concludes that a language cannot be “not good enough” because languages are always changing, as are opinions about languages. What Jean Aitchison parodies as the “damp spoon syndrome” of certain prescriptivist opinions, that words such as “innit” are seen as inherently bad – but no word or phrase or usage can be, in and of itself, bad. Irrational rejudice accounts for all of such opinions – there is no basis in fact, no evidence, for such an opinion.

le week-end

This is a French word which they have borrowed through the popular use of it in the English language, instead of using ‘au fin de semaine’. This can be also said for the word ‘shopping’ which is present in everyday French speech. This can support Harlow’s view that languages that borrow from other languages are the ones that are likely to stay being the most popular and widely used. However, the French also have “l’Acadèmie Française” which is supposed to preserve the French language. If the French continue to stop borrowing words, the language may well become less popular because it will not be developing with changes in society.


There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me / As if I were their well-acquainted friend. Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, Act IV, Scene 3 (1594) & “for they say every body is in love once in their lives, and I shall have been let off easily.” Austen, Emma, (1815) – The use of “their” in the singular though it is technically incorrect has been in existence a long time supporting James Milroy’s argument that there was no ‘Golden Age’ of language use. This contradicts the ‘Crumbling Castle’ analogy that language is in decline as it provides evidence that language has been used “incorrectly” for a long time though it could be argued that it demonstrates the ‘Infectious Disease’ analogy as people through the generations have copied the mistakes people before them have made.

to boldly go

Splitting infinitives, such as “to be” or “to go” by putting any word between the “to” of the infinitive and the verb of the infinitive, has been a bug bear of many prescriptivists becasue it is “simply wrong”. However: “Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows; Thy pity may deserve to pitied be” Shakespeare, Sonnet 142. And some writers get it comiccaly wrong: “Writers should learn to not split infinitives”. Henry Alford, in his ‘Plea for the Queen’s English’ in 1864, addressed this issue bringing it first to the attention of the public. Examples of split infinitives can be found in many examples of work, the earliest in the 13th Century and it wasn’t until the 1800s then again in the 1960/70s that people began to dispute it. This suggests that there was never a ‘Golden Age’, supporting Milroy’s argument. The construction appeared because people frequently place adverbs before finite verbs and therefore if the adverb should immediately precede the finite verb, we feel that it should immediately precede also the infinitive. This supports the ‘Damp Spoon’ syndrome idea that people are getting lazy about language use though as there is no solid grammatical evidence behind why we shouldn’t split infinitives (no one blamed Latin when the issue first cropped up in the 18th and 19th century) can it really be called wrong?


James Milroy argues the point that there was no ‘Golden Age’ of language use, therefore it cannot be in decline as there was never a time where it was being used “perfectly”. He points out that language was only standardised in 1755 and as, during the 19th  and 20th  Century, 40% of brides and bridegrooms couldn’t write their own name, the ‘Golden Age’ must have been between 1944 (when secondary education was made compulsory) and 1965 (complaints regarding the decline in language have been heard) though this seems unlikely. So when it comes to ending sentences with prepositions – e.g. What are you talking about ___i? It is said that the preposition “about” is stranded. – where is this golden age? There are numerous examples of respected authors using this feature – e.g. “The waves, and dens of beasts cou’d not receive / the bodies that those souls were frighted from.” by Ben Jonson’s Catiline (1611). Ending a sentence with a preposition was seen by linguists as wrong as it is wrong in Latin grammar which prescriptivists attempted to apply to the English language. We can blame an 18th-century English clergyman named Robert Lowth for this one. He wrote the first grammar book saying a preposition (a positioning word, like at, by, for, into, off, on, out, over, to, under, up, with) shouldn’t go at the end of a sentence because it can’t in Latin – the langugae he saw as the best of languages.

don’t know nothing

Use of double negatives is to cancel each other out in Standard English, this rule being recorded by Robert Lowth in 1762, yet many languages use this to emphasise the negativity of the statement. Yet in 1591 Shakespeare used a double negative to emphasise negativity – “I never was nor never will be” Shakespeare, Richard III – which suggests that language may be improving, going against the ‘Crumbling Castle’view. James Milroy argues that “the complaints about declining standards of speaking are not normally about the child’s ability to speak English but about the variety of English that he or she speaks.” So when children use double negatives they are seen as using the wrong vatiry of Englsih – i.e. Standard English – as opposed to being in any other sense “wrong”.


This comes from the Latin aggravate meaning ‘to make heavier’, it was originally borrowed into English to mean ‘to make serious’ and now means irritate. Links to Peter Trudgill’s argument that meanings of words changing wouldn’t make English any harder to speak. Peter Trudgill argues that it wouldn’t be easier to speak English if it didn’t change – language change is a good thing that is occurring all the time. The notion  that all words should go back to their original ‘correct’ meaning, is ridiculous, their correct meaning being what the first ever meaning of the word was, in most cases people do not know what the first ‘correct’ meaning of any word was.


From skei meaning ‘cut’ which came from down into Latin as the verb ‘to know’ via a meaning such as ‘be able to distinguish one thing from another. Two forms gave Latin verbs ‘nescire’ to be ignorant of.  Adjective nesius ‘ignorant’ into old French nice ‘silly’, borrowed into medieval English as ‘foolish, sly’ then over centuries ‘modest’ ‘delicate’ ‘considerate’ ‘pleasant’ ‘agreeable’ but really the original meaning was ‘not cutting’ Links to Peter Trudgill’s argument that changing meanings is a good thing to fit with current needs.

implied & inferred

‘Implied’ means that something she said hinted or gave clues to, without saying it outright. ‘Inferred’ means that the behaviour or speech was so that she was able to deduce from it. These all link to Peter Trudgill’s argument English wouldn’t be made harder if meanings change because context makes it clear which meaning is used. Both of these are used interchangeably and there is never any confusion, soon one will drop out of usage as we are beginning to use them both for both meanings even though we know their original ‘correct’ meaning.

lend & borrow

Both have slightly different ‘correct’ meanings but as it is such a fine line many people do not know the difference. Again people are beginning to use whichever they chose in the situation they are saying it in, people still see in some situations using the wrong lexis as grammatically incorrect as in, ‘can I lend your bike?’. But this usage of both words for the same meaning is not making it more confusing, only people who think they are of a higher class feel the need to correct on the difference of lend and borrow. These all link to Peter Trudgill’s argument English wouldn’t be made harder if meanings change because context makes it clear which meaning is used.


Used to mean ‘an abrupt, exclamatory utterance’ but in modern days it has sexual meaning of ‘the act or process of ejaculating, especially the discharge of the male reproductive organs’. The old meaning is rarely used now as newer meaning has overtaken it. Peter Trudgill’s argument language change Is a good thing to fit needs of current times is put into question here; we seem to have come across an instance where our language is being robbed of meanings, such that as soon as a word acquires a sexual connotation it is effectively “stolen” and it is lost for ever. To some extent we are all prescriptivists.




Why does no one say “I’m gonna bed”?  In this instance “going to” has retained independent meaning – that of going physically to someplace and therefore has a stronger resistance to any kind of change – such as contraction. However, “Going to”, as in “I’m going to kill you.” where “going” is not the lexical verb and so has no semantic content, just a grammatical function (denoting future tense) has lost independent content and so is more exposed to lexical change, as it used more often, in more predictable circumstances and with far less stress, and no independent meaning, it has the inherent potential for change and so it is susceptible to the use of shortcuts in pronunciation. What’s more, the risk of misunderstandings decreased in “I’m gonna stay at home”, so there is no barrier to change. This is also the case with “gotta”, “gimmie”, “let’s”, “don’t”, “o’clock”, “alright”. This neatly illustrates Jean Aitchison’s Potential, Diffusion, Implementation, Codification model, where some words and phrases simply have a potential to change (or a weakness).

back of

This is an example of what some people would call an invasion of Americanisms, where a phrase or word in the English Language is frequently replaced by the American form of the meaning. Here the preposition “behind” is being replaced with “back of” which is an American term. However, prepositions originate ultimately from normal nouns and verbs like “back” or “go”, and this shows that language is referring back to what makes the most sense in terms of the simplest language. Guy Deutscher would refer to this process as the “Creation through Destruction” cycle, where existing words are constantly recycled, given fresh new meanings and then other words take their place.


“Ufan” is the old word for “above” is a clear example of Guy Deutscher’s creation through destruction cycle. Ufan” meant “on up” which was then blended to “be-ufan” meaning “by on up”. This was then clipped to form “bufan”. This was then given the preposition “an” to form “an-bufan” literally meaning “on by on up”. The cycle continued until “above.” Not only does this movemnt in language over a long period show how words are constantly changing to become either more economical or more effective or more analogous with other words, but that every word is subject to change, and the change we see around us today is just the same process slowed down.

hoc die

In Latin, “Hoc Die” meaning “On this day” was blended to form “Hodie” which had the meaning “Today”. The French use of this noun was shortened or ‘eroded’ to “hui”. Yet “Hui” did not hold enough emphasis for a word, and so it was extended to “au jour d’hui” meaning “on the day of this day”. Au jour d’hui was then compounded to make “aujourd’hui”, the commonly used term today. Yet this has also been compacted so much that its emphasis as a word is not considered enough by many people, who have started to use the formation “au jour d’aujourd’hui” which has the literal meaning “on the day of on the day of this day”. In the forces of creation, Guy Deutscher proposes that what some people call decay in language is actually part of a continual process which regenerates language over and over again as words are changed to make them more convenient for people to use.


How did “will” which meant want to/desire come to be sued as a future auxiliary and have no semantic content itself in some clauses? The marriage promise “I will” used to have the literal meaning “I want to” love, honour, cherish etc. Yet if you say you want to then you normally will do, and so “will” ended up as a future auxiliary. Where there was a need for a word function in a language – in this case for a small and neat future auxiliary, which could efficiently denote future time without adding anything else to the sentence, the language came up with a solution. Languages are essentially changing, living things.


Originally used to describe materials such as rubber, but can now be used instead of ‘difficult’ or to describe a person and to describe the abstract concept of ideas. e.g. tough legislation. Tough could be described as a clichéd metaphor, as the original meaning is still in use and its new use has been used often enough for it to lose its original impact. This exemplifies Guy Deutscher’s belief that metaphors expand our expressive range, as now there are more words for the word “difficult”. Deutscher argues that metaphors are a necessary tool used to express difficult concepts. They appear frequently in everyday language: to explain concepts such as spatial relations or possession metaphors are necessary, causing a blur between metaphorical and literal meaning, leading to what he calls as a “reef of dead metaphors” which make up our language.


The word ‘curb’ was originally used to describe a piece of metal attached to a horses bridal and placed in the horse mouth to help to control its movement. However, now, this meaning has been almost completely replaced with its metaphorical meaning of controlling something, usually intangible, abstract concepts rather than a tangible horse. eg in ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’.  This is a dead metaphor, as the original meaning is almost completely lost and demonstrates the fact that, adapting the use of words through metaphors is useful in expressing difficult concepts, such as “controlling” and abstract concepts such as “enthusiasm”. Dead metaphors lose their original meaning and are used more in an abstract sense, as there are often few alternatives – Guy Deutscher argues that language needs dead metaphors to keep pace with itself.


From Old English thyrlian, meaning pierce. The current sense of thrill must have started as a metaphor with some shock value; I’m thrilled to bits literally meaning I’m pierced to bits, being a graphic equivalent of today’s you’re killing me or smashing. This semantic shift shows that changing the meaning of the word can expand our expressive range and provide more words to choose from as there were previously fewer alternative words to express being excited by something. Guy Deutscher’s theory on language change is very much concerned with metaphors which are a major driver for change in that they enable the speakers of the language to be more expressive, just as the language itself is becoming stale and ineffective from overuse. Metaphors are often thought to be an ornamental figure of poetic arts, creating evocative images, like “I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because your tread on my dreams.”  Yet they can be found, dead or alive, in even the plainest words of everyday language. They are an essential tool of thought, allowing us to think of abstract concepts in simpler terms, and are the only way we have of dealing with abstraction. Abstract ideas using metaphors originate from a concrete object or concept that we are familiar with. The only way we have of expanding our expressive range to encompass abstract concepts is to draw on concrete terms.


Initially meant “remove cover from” It was still used in the 17th century in this physical sense. ‘If the house be discovered by tempest, the tenant must in convenient time repaire it.’ This is another dead metaphor as few people use it to describe the action of removing a cover from something. The move away from its original, literal meaning has meant that there is an alternative to the word “find” which has a slightly different meaning as ”find” is used less frequently with abstract concepts compared to “discover”, again making the language better at expressing many different concepts. Guy Deutscher, as a “radical prescriptivist” argues that through such a process our language is getting better, we are getting better at expressing ourselves: expressiveness is a key driver for language change.


Originally meant plank. It is now used for things like ‘board of governors’ or ‘chairman of the board’ meaning a group of people with important or official roles.  It not as dead as the other metaphors as it’s still used in this sense today e.g. diving board.  As both meaning of the word are still used, it shows that a semantic shift from a literal meaning to metaphorical meaning does not cause confusion, as some would argue about most instances of language change. Guy Deutscher argues that “The mind cannot just manufacture words for abstract concepts out of thin air- all it can do is adapt what is already available.” – hence adapting the ingredients it already has – using existing words in a metaphorical sense, which can exist alongside the literal meaning, or, as in some cases, be wholly superseded by it, as with “barmy”, which originally meant full of barm, barm being froth or yeast. This would have created quite a strong image of somebody being seriously mentally ill but this impact has been lost due to how frequently it has been used. Also today many people use ‘mental’ to describe slightly bizarre events and so the word’s original meaning of being to do with the brain is likely to be less frequently used. This metaphor expresses an abstract concept regarding sanity or now just vaguely odd events, without using medical language and so can be used often by many.


From Greek, for flesh tearing, and is related to sarcophagus, meaning flesh eating. It is now an indispensible word where the original literal meaning is not used. This change fits with Guy Deutscher’s view that metaphors help expand a language’s capacity for expression. Though we could have made up a word (neologism) to label this concept, it is far easier for a language and its users to adapt pre-existing ingredients. Semantic change would seem, therefore, to be far more common than lexical change, as well as being harder to measure, as sometimes meanings can change almost imperceptibly. Over time the connotations of some words shift slightly, either broadening or narrowing, or even taking on whole new, and sometimes, metaphorical meanings, such as “head”, the original meaning of which is still used but now it is also used to describe a person in charge or ‘at the top’  like a Head teacher.  This metaphorical meaning expresses effectively the abstract concept of being in charge of something.


The auxiliary verb ‘have’ is one of the most common words in English, yet it is still a very abstract notion. What do you actually do when you ‘have’ something? If a word for describing ‘having’ something did not exist what would you do, and how would you express the idea?  ‘Have’ would be described by Guy Deutscher as a dead metaphor: it ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European root ‘kap’ which mean seize. The original meaning survives in the Latin root ‘cap’ which we still use today in words like capture, captive, capable and even catches. So our language has changed to give us a word for an abstract concept, in this case “possession”, it has subsequently been stripped of all of its old meaning, leaving us a very useful word which is essential as both a lexical verb and an auxiliary verb. Guy Deutscher:  “ …the flow of metaphors towards abstraction is beginning to reveal how life and death in language are entwined. Whereas in poetry metaphors turn into empty clichés once they die of over-use, in everyday language dead metaphors are the alluvium from which grammatical structures emerge. Like a reef, which grows from layer upon layer of dead coral skeletons, new structures in language can rise from the layers of dead metaphors deposited by the flow towards abstraction.’”






William Labov looked at change in language and how different social factors affected language change, ranging from age to social class to gender. He found language change was either conscious of unconscious, unconscious being when people change their language without noticing, and conscious being when people realise they are changing the way they speak, and actively encourage it.  From his research he came up with the ideas of overt and covert prestige. An overt prestige dialect is generally one that is widely recognized as being used by a culturally dominant group and Labov noted cases where people would use this dialect in order to gain social prestige. A covert prestige dialect, on the other hand, is one that is generally perceived by the dominant culture group as being inferior but which compels its speakers to use it to show membership in an exclusive community.

flo-aw (floor)

William Labov studied the dialects of New York City. He noticed that the post-vocalic ‘r’ was considered the prestige dialect which he observed because the use of the ‘r’ varied with level of formality and social class: in the three stores that he visited, ranging from lower, middle to upper class in price and fashion scale, when prompted to say “fourth floor” when asked for directions, the upper class shop assistants pronounced it their most in casual speech (i.e. when asked first time) and then said it in the same way in careful speech (i.e. when asked to repeat.). Of the four classes tested – Lower Class, Working Class, Lower Middle Class & Upper Middle Class, the lower middle class were the most susceptible to the overt prestige of the ‘r’ as they differed most in its usage between the casual speech of being asked the first time and the more careful speech style when asked to repeat

Moose (mouse)

In his study in Martha’s Vineyard, William Labov focused on realisations of the diphthongs [aw] and as in mouse. On Martha’s Vineyard the locals were changing their vowel sounds from 30 years ago. He interviewed a number of speakers drawn from different ages and ethnic groups on the island, and noted that among the younger (31-45 years) speakers a movement seemed to be taking place away from the pronunciations associated with the standard New England norms, and towards a pronunciation associated with conservative and characteristically Vineyard speakers – the Chilmark fishermen (i.e. from [au] to [əu]). The heaviest users of this type of pronunciation were young men who actively sought to identify themselves as Vineyarders, rejected the values of the mainland, and resented the encroachment of wealthy summer visitors on the traditional island way of life. Thus, these speakers seem to be exploiting the resources of the non-standard accent. When Labov interviewed the inhabitants, there seemed to be no conscious awareness that the rest of the island seemed to be imitating this vowel change from the fishermen. They subconsciously changed their vowel – so moose being a covert prestige pronunciation of mouse.

bu-ah (butter)

This pronunciation, which is typical of the Cockney and Estuary English dialects was traditionally associated with the lower classes and there is now a growing tendency all over Britain to make the glottal stop rather than the ‘t’ sound within words like butter. This signifies a case of covert prestige where the “inferior” dialect has been adopted by more people including the dominant class who would have originally spoken in RP. This could also reflect an instance of what Jean Aitchison mockingly referred to as ‘Damp Spoon’ i.e. it could support the prescriptivist view that language is deteriorating due to our laziness in pronunciation. However it in fact takes more muscular tension to omit the /t/ than to say it so the idea that it is down to laziness does not fit. It also contradicts the idea that this change has spread like an infectious disease because covert prestige means that people change the way they speak because they want to fit in. As Jean Aitcheson says- ‘The disease metaphor falls down. People pick up changes because they want to. They want to fit in with certain social groups.’

bew (bell)

The ‘l’ in words like “bell” becomes a vowel sound (“bew”) – The spread from South-Eastern regions around London, i.e. from Essex and cockney-speaking areas, to other regions in the UK of this example of l-vocalization shows how a working-class dialect can spread into other communities of a different traditional dialect and perhaps a different class. It could be that TV programmes like Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses have popularized such dialect so that it becomes overt prestige to use it because you are fitting in with what is fashionable.  What is interesting is that people who in previous generations would have spoken Received Pronunciation or perhaps near-RP (standard British English) have instead opted for this more “regional sounding” accent.  This Estuary English isn’t radical because of its spread; it’s radical because of the type of people who speak it:  middle-class young people, celebrities, and white collar professionals. This signifies a case of covert prestige where the “inferior” dialect has been adopted by more people including the dominant class who would have originally spoken in RP. This is a subconscious change.

nefew (nephew)

Most of us nowadays tend to use a <f> sound in this word. The <v> is the traditional pronunciation for speakers of all accents, but is rarely heard among younger speakers nowadays. It is unclear why this change has occurred, but it is probably because of the spelling. Over the past 100 years or so, access to education has increased and thus more of us are aware of the written appearance of the word. A similar process has happened with the word if. This would be an example of how education is actually increasing the rate of language change in some instances, and not, as some prescriptivist would have it, especially those sarcastically labelled by Jean Aitchison as having the “damp spoon view”, as a result of stupidity and laziness, as well as maybe simple bad manners.

onvelope (envelope)

This is an example of language change possibly influenced by spelling include ate, and envelope: younger speakers tend to rhyme “ate” with gate rather than with get and in the word “envelope” the initial vowel tends nowadays to rhyme more often with den rather than with don. This kind of language change does not point to the influence of covert or overt prestige. That is, unless speakers changed their speech in this way because of hypercorrect pronunciation when they realised that it was spelt the same as e.g. philosophy and phone, then this would be a case of mistaken overt prestige. Aside from that, this example contradicts the prescriptivist view of people like Lynn Truss that English is a ‘crumbling castle’ because dialect changes like this show the increasing regularisation of English; it is perhaps becoming more logical.


fink (think)


Th-fronting refers to the pronunciation of the English “th” as “f” or “v”. When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Th-fronting – the use of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] for the dental fricatives [θ] and [ð] – is a well known feature of Cockney and was noted by Peter Trudgill as spreading through non-standard accents in England. Although th-fronting is found occasionally in the middle and upper (middle) class English accents as well, there is still a marked social difference between working and middle class speakers. This is because the phoneme /f/ in words like ‘think’ and ‘thumb’ is non-standard English and considered inferior to traditional RP therefore the upper and much of the middle classes are reluctant to pronounce it in this way and instead look to obtain overt prestige. Also, many prescriptivists would point to the spelling of the word as evidence of the “correct” pronunciation – however, as is well known, spelling is no guide to pronunciation, as G B Shaw argued with his famous example: “ghoti”.





How English spelling became so irregular

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on November 2, 2011


The first English writing system was developed in the 7th century, after St. Augustine brought Latin to England in 597. The language and spelling have both changed a great deal since then. They did not start to resemble current usage until 1348, when a series of plagues helped to end French domination over England and the English language. The system from which current English spelling conventions have developed was established mainly by the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who died in 1400.

Sadly, his orthography began to be diluted almost as soon as he had created it. English became re-instated as the official language of England around 1430, after the 100 years war with France ended, and many of the scribes and clerks of court, who had hitherto written only French or Latin, had trouble switching to it. Their difficulties are chiefly responsible for most of the still surviving French spellings in words of French origin (table, double, centre) and spelling inconsistencies, such as ‘label – table’, ‘bubble – double’, ‘enter – centre’. Most words of French descent have been respellt to show their changed, anglicised pronunciation (e.g. ‘beef, batter, battle, count, government, mountain’ – from ‘boeuf, battre, bataille, compter, gouvernement, montagne’)

Chaucer’s spelling system became even more seriously corrupted after 1476, when Caxton returned to London after 30 years on the Continent, to set up the first English printing press. To help him in this enterprise, he brought with him printers from Belgium who spoke little or no English and made numerous spelling errors (e.g. ‘any, busy, citie’ for ‘eny, bisy, cittie’).

They were also paid by the line and fond of lengthening words to earn more money, or to make margins look neater. Many words with earlier simpler spellings became more complex and longer (frend – friend, hed – head, seson – season; fondnes – fondnesse, bad – badde, shal – shall).

The biggest dilution of English spelling patterns, however, occurred in the 16th century, during the printing of the first English bibles. They were printed abroad, because English bishops supported the Pope’s ban on translating the holy writ from Latin into native languages. After Martin Luther’s public questioning of the Pope’s infallibility in 1517 in Germany, many English people began to want to know exactly what the bible said, instead of just hearing about it from priests in their Sunday sermons. William Tyndale translated it, but he had to leave England to do so.

Tyndale had to live in hiding, moving between Germany, Holland and Belgium, because spies in the employ of Sir Thomas More were constantly trying to track him down. His writings were therefore also printed abroad by people who spoke no English.

They were also much reprinted, because English bishops kept having them searched out, bought up and brought back for public burning outside St. Paul’s cathedral in London. With repeated copying, from increasingly corrupt copies, bible spellings became more and more varied. Yet they were the first and only book that many families ever bought, and learned to read and write from too.

When Sir Thomas More’s spies did finally manage to track Tyndale down and have him hanged and then burnt at the stake near Brussels in 1536, printers began to change his spellings even more, along with his name, in order to disguise his authorship. By the second half of the 16th century English spelling had consequently become very chaotic, with hardly anyone knowing what its rules were. Elizabethan manuscripts consequently became full of different spellings for identical words, on the same page, even including the Queen’s own writings and the first authorised bible of 1611.

The spelling mess created during the first 100 years of English printing, mainly by foreign printers without any knowledge of English, led to calls for the standardisation of English spelling. The first step towards this was taken by teachers who began to compile spelling lists for their pupils. One of them, Edmond Coote, published his in 1595 and called it ‘The English Schoolemaister’. It saved others the trouble, became very popular and also highly influential.

Coote cut many surplus letters inserted by printers (e.g. hadde – had, worde – word). He was greatly assisted by pamphleteers of the English Civil War (1642-9) who liked words to be shorter in order to pack as much information onto a page as possible.

Unfortunately, they did not get rid of all surplus letters, and nearly all that escaped their 17th C culling survive still (e.g. have, well, fuss, friend, build). Coote also paid no heed to the regularity of English spelling or ease of mastering it. His main aim was to help establish a single spelling for each word, opting for the one most often used.

When Samuel Johnson began work on his famous dictionary of 1755, quite a few English words still had more than one spelling, such as ‘thare, there, thair, ther, their’. He decided to link several hundred alternative spellings to differences in meaning, as was already beginning to happen, and thereby helped to make learning to spell English even more difficult. Mercifully, he did not apply this to at least 2000 others, such as ‘arm/arme, mean/mene’.


TOWIE’s dialect continues a lengthy linguistic tradition

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on November 2, 2011

Sort ... The Only Way Is Essex beauty Chloe Sims

‘Sort’ … The Only Way Is Essex beauty Chloe Sims

By PAUL KERSWILL, Professor of Sociolinguistics at Lancaster University

Published: 21 Oct 2011

 REALITY show The Only Way Is Essex is utterly compulsive viewing, just like a soap opera.

But what’s different from EastEnders, of course, is that the characters are real people… sort of.

It’s a strange show because you have these colourful characters who are effectively acting like themselves in a drama series.

All these people really talk about is their relationships, but they do it in glamorous locations. It is all quite empty-headed.

For me, as someone fascinated by linguistics, what is most interesting, though, is the way they speak.

For example, when Billi is talking to Kirk and his mate Joey she makes “you” plural by sticking an “s” on the end so it sounds like “yous”.

It’s like adding an “s” to “boy” — “boys”. Logical? Yes. And Kirk replies by addressing both girls together as “yous”. But Joey and Cara are just addressing each other so they use “you”.


Expert ... Paul Kerswill

Expert … Paul Kerswill

This is similar to Americans using “y’all” if they were talking to a group of people, as in “Are y’all coming?” Did Billi and Kirk invent “yous”? No, they didn’t. It started in Ireland, migrated to Liverpool, then moved round the coast to Glasgow and Newcastle. Now you can hear it in London too.Billi and Joey are also fond of the word “was” where standard English would be “were”. Are they just ignorant? No, they’re following the old Cockney dialect of their forebears.

In Wednesday’s episode Joey was chatting to his cousin Chloe about how he met Cara the previous night.

Joey says she is “a sort” but Chloe doesn’t know this expression and he has to explain that it means good looking. I didn’t know this phrase either, but it’s actually been out there for a while and this mention probably means it has a good chance of catching on even more.

A word that older people love to hate is “like”. Joey and Chloe pepper their speech with it. Chloe uses it twice in rapid succession: “But like, I just, I don’t know like, how old is she?” Whether we approve or not, “like” is here to stay.

Chloe says “anyfink” for “anything”. The “f” bit has been around for 100 years and the “k” part even longer. It has a long history and Chloe and her friends are continuing a tradition.

The pair then go on to discuss Joey’s “pie and mash pool party”. The themes appear to belong to different worlds — glamour, Hollywood and everyday British working people’s fare!

This is the producer playing on the Essex man/woman stereotype — loadsamoney but no sophistication.


'And we thought it was just a reem way to talk' ... TOWIE's Joey Essex

‘And we thought it was just a reem way to talk’ … Joey Essex


Joey also uses his catchphrase “reem” in this scene. TOWIE followers would recognise it and laugh knowingly. It’s a great strategy for giving the fans a warm feeling of being included.

“Reem” and also “jel” are words I had not heard before. That is just like in real life where an in-group of people, or a gang, will develop their own catchphrases and lingo. Teenagers are particularly prone to developing their own jargon.

“Shuuuuut uuup” has also become a TOWIE phrase. Catchphrases are the prime way television influences our language. Usually they are, well, catchy — just think of Bruce Forsyth’s “Nice to see you, to see you, nice!” and Only Fools And Horses’ “Lovely jubbly”.

But why “shut up” of all things? That elongated vowel certainly has something to do with it.

But most likely it’s the package of Essex voice and, with Harry, Essex camp that is so irresistible.

This is a lesson in linguistics — we hear an accent and, whether we like it or not, we associate the accent with a particular type of person.

As with any accent, an Essex voice evokes an image, or a stereotype, of a certain sort of person — you can fill in what sort.

The TOWIE producers know this and they complete the stereotype for us by giving us the jewellery, the orange faces and the fast cars.

And we are laughing with the producers and with the Essex people themselves, not at them. We are all in on the act and that takes the sting out of taking the mickey. In fact, it neutralises it.

It’s all so in your face that we end up asking, is this the real Essex?

Objectors complain that this isn’t how people from the county really are. And anyway, this isn’t even the genuine Essex accent. But if you pop into Brentwood, Basildon or Billericay, you will hear a Mark, Maria and Mick.

The old rural East Anglian dialect has almost disappeared from Essex. Why? London’s East End barrow boys upped sticks decades ago and found greener pastures there, bringing their treasured Cockney accent with them. Before that, Essex folk would have spoken with a rural accent.


Mouthy ... Kirk Norcross and Joey Essex on show

Mouthy … Kirk Norcross and Joey Essex on show


Meanwhile, Essex men and women have now changed the sound of Cockney. Whereas an older native (maybe Mick or Debbie) might say “It’s nice and modern” and “You’re sleepin'”, Essex girl Chloe says “It’s nice and modeerrrrn” and “You’re sleepinnnn'”, putting a heavy stress on the last syllable.

Back in London, where Joey or Arg’s parents or grandparents probably moved from, there is now a multicultural East End with a new, vibrant accent.

Some people have called it Jafaican. It’s not a word I particularly like. It may be a bit of a mouthful but I prefer Multicultural London English.

This is a home-grown accent, born in London, which is made up of all sorts of ethnic influences, including Jamaican and Asian.

People ask how fake TOWIE is. Despite the shiny teeth, breast implants and spray-on tans, one thing remains real — the accent.

TOWIE gives us the genuine, new Essex accent. It’s not put on like the make-up, it’s the real McCoy.



Accents in rest of the UK

 THE UK accents which remain the strongest are the Liverpool and Newcastle dialects.

That is because local identities are very strong there and are defined by loyalty to an accent, as well as to football teams.

Bristol and Norwich both still have strong local accents too.

In Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds the local accent is being influenced by immigrants. There is a Manchester Afro-Caribbean accent and a Manchester Asian accent.

Scottish accents are, if anything, getting stronger. There is no sign of the Scots starting to speak like the English.

The linguistic border between the two countries is very sharp. If you go into a pub on one side of the border then walk to the other side you will hear different accents straight away.




Is Proper English Dying? And Should Us Care?

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on October 30, 2011

If, as Laurie Anderson sang,language is a virus, then English is the common cold.


Already ubiquitous — English has an estimated 1.5 billion speakers — it’s only growing more so, given its status in fast-growing emerging markets. Especially the fastest-growing and emerging-est market of all, China, where it was estimated last year by the China Daily newspaper that up to 400 million people are currently actively learning English, or nearly a third of the population. (It’s this statistic that led Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China and soon-to-be-former GOP presidential candidate, to remark recently that in a few years, China will have more English-speakers than America.)

Of course, the thing about viruses is that they mutate rapidly and randomly, often with bizarre results. Websites like Engrish.com document its comically haphazard use in Asia, such as a warning sign at a lake in Nanjing, China that reads “TAKE THE CHILD, FALL INTO WATER CAREFULLY” or the Shanghai transit security bulletin that helpfully tells tourists “IF YOU ARE STOLEN, CALL THE POLICE AT ONCE.”

Though such bits of found humor are hilarious individually — they power many of the laughs in David Henry Hwang’s just-opened Broadway comedy “Chinglish,” for instance — collectively, they point to a serious issue. Learning English isn’t the same as knowing English, and knowing English isn’t the same as being able to speak good, or even intelligible English.

And with English serving as the lingua franca of trade and diplomacy, not to mention technology — it’s the de facto native tongue of the Internet, and the default language of next-gen interfaces like Apple’s Siri intelligent agent — concern is growing in China and other upwardly mobile markets that having poor English skills may be worse than having none at all, given that limited and halting speakers are increasingly relegated to a permanent second-class global citizen status.

It’s hard to be taken seriously once you’ve given your overseas colleagues a polite warning to “be mindful of the juicy surfaces,” after all. Which is why in China alone, over 50,000 private English schools have sprung up to accommodate professionals and parents skeptical of the quality of the nation’s standardized language education.

Tutorial programs like Wall Street English, not affiliated with this publication, and Disney English, which is affiliated with its namesake media giant, are at the forefront of a burgeoning industry worth over $4.4 billion in 2010 alone, according to China’s National Education Development Statistical Bulletin. Controversial homegrown language guru Li Yang’s massive language boot-camp program “Crazy English” — slogan: Conquer English to Make China Stronger! — has reportedly cranked out over 20 million graduates, with students paying up to $250 to gather in stadiums to engage in shouted English lessons with the charismatic mogul.

The problem is that while deficits in grammar, vocabulary and diction can be addressed with study and rote repetition, one language flaw is nearly impossible to fix with traditional training methods alone: Accent. Even the most fluent classroom-taught student is instantly recognizable as a “non-native speaker.” And as common wisdom has it, the only way to acquire a native accent is to live among natives, for years or even decades —something for which hard-charging emerging aspirationals rarely have the time or patience.

Accent-reduction specialist Andy Krieger begs to differ. “I get a hundred emails a month from China, where they’ve published my book and DVD,” he says. “If some astute business could help me market this thing, some day I’ll be a multimillionaire. None of the teachers there can speak English without an accent. Even Li Yang, I want to tell him, just pay me to teach you to speak perfect English, and you can go teach the other billion Chinese.”

Krieger’s “K Method,” which involves conscious use of particular tongue and lip positions and strategic pacing and pausing to replicate not just native American English, but idealized American English — ”Hollywood English,” he jokes — has made him a man in demand by studios and networks facing a growing influx of performers from the U.K., Australia and farther afield. Until recently, his biggest claim to fame was working with Jackie Chan to prep him for his dialogue-heavy role in the big-budget kids feature “The Forbidden Kingdom.” (“Let’s just say I wish the producers had given me a bit more time with him,” Krieger says.)

Recently, Krieger found himself in the news for one of his less glittery gigs: Providing teachers in the Arizona school system with accent-reduction training to prevent them from being suspended or removed from classrooms due to “poor pronunciation” — which critics and educators targeted by the policy alleged was just a proxy for having a Spanish accent.

“A couple years ago, I got a frantic call from a principal at an elementary school in Phoenix, saying ‘The state of Arizona wants to fire all of my Mexican teachers for having accents!’” he says. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry, I can help you.’ And I went down there and taught 31 teachers, and all of them made it past the state audit.”

It can’t be comforting for foreign students of English to see some places in the nation with the current largest population of its speakers in the world — ours — cracking down on residents, and even citizens, with less than perfect tone and pronunciation. As detailed in “A Community of Contrasts,” a just-released report from the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, 60% of Asians in the U.S. are foreign-born, the highest percentage of any demographic group in the nation, and 71% speak a language other than English at home, trailing only Hispanics at 77%.

“Being limited in English proficiency is a barrier to getting even a living-wage job,” says the organization’s executive director, Karen Narasaki. “You can see a direct correlation between poverty rates and the low levels of English proficiency. But even for white-collar workers, having an accent can add to discrimination. And research has demonstrated that if you’re Asian, people are more likely to think you speak with an accent.”

Subtle bias can lead to substantial economic impact. In particular, having an accent can lead to perceptions of poor communication skills or lack of leadership ability, reducing the chance for advancement. The end result, as multiple studies have shown, is that even fully fluent individuals for whom English is a second language may experience decreased earnings of up to 12% over the course of their careers.

And the mainstreaming of voice-operated interfaces like Apple’s iPhone 4S-based Siri adds another layer of potential complications for those who don’t speak generic-standard English. Apple has promoted Siri as transformational technology, promising to fundamentally change the way people will interact not just with handheld devices, but potentially — if pundits like the New York Times’s Nick Bilton are to be believed — the entire connected home.

But videos showing Siri confounded by foreign accents have gone viral, most notably one shared by Hidenori Satoh, a Japanese journalist present at the iPhone 4S’s Tokyo unveiling. Siri is currently optimized for standard U.S., U.K. and Australian English dialects and, notes Apple, its “suitability rate will be higher for native speakers.”

Does this suggest a future in which non-native English speakers might end up with their homes and devices in Hal 2000-like rebellion, unwilling or unable to respond to their commands? An iPhone 4S-owning friend of mine, Sumin Chou, principal of mobile and web development firm Concentric Studio, offered to host a testing session to find out. I invited a group of individuals with Asian accents varying in both degree and origin to join us for an evening of wine, cheese and Siri.

Surprisingly, Siri performed admirably well (even to accents loosened up with pinot) — responding to most commands with aplomb, and only repeatedly stumbling on the most challenging item on our battery of tests, a request for information: “Who is the president of the United States?” Or, as the evening went on, of the Philippines, North Korea and other more far-flung locales.

Siri thought Chinese-born journalist Yuhan’s request was for the “Wednesday president of the United States”; John’s Pinoy-inflected query for the president of the Philippines brought up a search for the “president of beekeeping”; and Yuna Yang, a charming fashion designer of South Korean origin, managed to get Siri stuck in a series of ever more absurd loops with her simple world leader requests, triggering random Google Map searches and phone calls, and finally causing the poor virtual aide de camp to give up, saying she “I don’t see ‘East Princeton up North Korea’ in your address book.”

Of course, Siri is still in beta, and Apple says that she’s designed to learn and improve. “The more you use Siri, the better it will understand you,” says Apple spokesperson Natalie Harris. “It does this by learning about your accent and other characteristics of your voice. Siri uses voice recognition algorithms to categorize your voice into one of the dialects or accents it understands. And as more people use Siri and it’s exposed to more variations of a language, its overall recognition of dialects and accents will continue to improve, and Siri will work even better.”

And not just in English, either — Siri already speaks French and German, and will add Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Italian next year, with more tongues soon to follow. Which brings up the interesting possibility that, rather than turning language into a handicap, Siri might eventually be the basis of a true universal communicator: Imagine speaking one language into Siri’s ear, and having her transmit another to the person on the other side of the phone, in real-time. In short, Siri’s future may be more Star Trek than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Or so we can only hope.



Fight against Franglais! French language website creates list of English words it wants to ban

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on October 13, 2011

As custodians of the French language, the Académie Française takes its job very seriously.

It has fought against the creeping use of English for decades – asking for certain imports to be replaced with their purer French alternatives.

And now, with the threat of its beloved mother tongue becoming even further diluted, it has taken the radical step of starting to list English words it wants banned from use.

Custodians: The Académie Française wants to preserve the French language in all its gloryCustodians: The Académie Française wants to preserve the French language in all its glory

The body has introduced a new section to its website – called ‘Dire, ne pas dire’ (Say, don’t say).

To date only two ‘anglicisms’ have been listed, but the body promises that more will be added over the coming months.

The first is ‘best of’, which is commonly used across Le Manche (English Channel), with the words joined by a hyphen.


The second word to come under fire is the Franglais construction ‘impacter’, which the Académie recommends replacing with ‘affecter’.

The Académie Française was created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII.

It has forty members, known as ‘immortals’, who hold office for life, and the body is the chief authority on the French language and publishes an official dictionary.

Target: The Académie Française, based in this building, has taken the radical step of starting to list English words it wants banned from use on its own websiteTarget: The Académie Française, based in this building, has taken the radical step of starting to list English words it wants banned from use on its own website

In the past it has asked French speakers to replace the word ‘Walkman’ with ‘baladeur’, ‘software’ with ‘logiciel’ and ’email’ with ‘courriel’.

The new website also rails against poor use of French words, including banishing some popular French expressions such as ‘pas de souci’, used to mean ‘no problem’.

‘I think it’s ridiculous. The French language is a living thing that necessarily changes.’

– Clémentine Autain

The Académie reminds readers this is not the correct use of the word and people should just say ‘cela ne pose pas de difficulté’ (that does not present a problem) instead.

Reaction to the new website has been mixed. Clémentine Autain, director of monthly magazine Regards, told RTL she thought it was a waste of time.

‘I think it’s ridiculous,’ she said. ‘The French language is a living thing that necessarily changes.’

But Valérie Lecasble, communication consultant at the TBWA Corporate agency, said that ‘if the Académie Française doesn’t protect the French language, who will?’

French legislators have also taken up the challenge of protecting the language in the past, most notably with the Toubon Law in 1994.

The law, named after the minister of culture who introduced it, Jacques Toubon, mandated the use of French in official government publications, all advertising, workplaces and contracts.

A related law also imposed quotas on broadcast music stipulating that at least 40 percent of music played on TV and radio is in French.

By LEE MORAN – 12th October 2011
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2048323/French-language-website-creates-list-English-words-wants-ban.html#ixzz1ahFoQ2Fs

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on October 5, 2011

‘Mumpreneur’, ‘mankle’ and ‘mamil’ among new words in latest dictionary

Updated Collins book includes 70 new terms from the fields of politics, technology, fashion and contemporary culture

Zumba dance exercise

Zumba, the word for dance exercise, has entered the dictionary for the first time, along with words from technology and fashion. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian


“Arab Spring” and “mumpreneur” are among the new words and phrases that have entered the latest edition of a major dictionary.

About 70 new terms from the fields of politics, technology, fashion and contemporary culture are included in the 11th edition of the Collins English Dictionary published on Thursday.

Descriptions of modern lifestyle are reflected in terms such as “mumpreneur”, a woman who combines running a business with looking after her children, and Nick Clegg’s phrase “alarm clock Britain”, workers on moderate incomes whose daily routine involves preparing children for school and going out to work.

Mullet dressKate Moss in a mullet dress, cut short at the front and long at the back.For travellers, a new phrase is “cuddle class”, when two airline passengers buy an additional seat so that they can recline together.

The fashion world has inspired the word “mankle” for a man’s bare ankle. “mamil”, a middle-aged man in Lycra, and “mullet dress”, a woman’s skirt cut short at the front but long at the back.

The term “fash pack”, influential people in the fashion industry, has also entered the dictionary.

Elaine Higgleton, publishing director for Collins English Dictionaries, which are produced in Glasgow, said: “I think the dictionary is really showing how British culture is continuing to evolve.

“There’s quite a lot of vocabulary about past times, around fashion, celebrities, TV, culture and popular culture, but there’s also the more serious stuff, such as Arab Spring and the ongoing financial situation.

“It shows what the concerns of society are at the moment.”

Developments in technology are reflected in words such as “frape”, which mixes the words Facebook and rape to refer to the altering of information on a person’s profile on the social networking site without their permission.

“Clicktivism” combines the words click and activism to mean using the internet to take direct and often militant action to achieve political or social aims. The word “unfollow” means to stop following someone on Facebook or Twitter.

The revolts in the Middle East and north Africa are reflected in the term “Arab Spring” to describe the Arab people’s clamour for democratic reforms.

Other terms from current affairs include “casino banking”, for bankers who risk losing investors’ money to gain maximum profits, and “emberrorist”, meaning an organisation or person who seeks to reveal potentially embarrassing information, often as a political weapon.

London mayor Boris Johnson has also entered the dictionary with the eponymous “Boris Bike“, the Barclays-sponsored public bicycle-sharing scheme that was launched in July 2010.

From the field of sport, the dance exercise Zumba is included, as is “planking”, involving balancing oneself in a horizontal position on top of unusual objects.

Higgleton said: “The English language has always been quite creative, putting two words together to create a new word.”

One of the latest examples of that is the term “foodoir”, a book or blog which combines a personal memoir with a series of recipes.


Press Association – guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 5 October 2011 

Thee & Thou

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on September 25, 2011

Dreadful Sorry, Clementine

The English language is just too polite.

Too polite for thee, anyhow. And thou art left by the wayside too.

Not so long ago—just a few hundred years—thou and its cousins thee and thy were the words to use when addressing one person, while you and ye and your were reserved for more than one. (Thou and ye, like he and she, were used as sentence subjects; thee andyou, like him and her, were the objects of verbs and prepositions.) Indeed, the English language more than a thousand years ago had not only singular and plural pronouns, but optional dual as well: wit for “we two,” and yit for “you two.”

But later in the Middle Ages, after the Norman Conquest of 1066, politeness happened. It became the custom, not only in English but in most European languages, to show respect by addressing someone as you, even if the person was singular. Perhaps it was the inverse of the royal we, used by a ruler in public utterances as if to speak on behalf of God or of all his or her subjects. The subjects would show respect by responding to the plural we with the plural you.

The subtleties of choosing between thou and you could make for great literature. You could write a whole article about the uses of thou and you in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for example—as in fact I once did.

But because you was a sign of respect, thou by contrast became a sign of disrespect, at least in public. You would use it in public only to someone you treated as an inferior, such as a servant.

For private intimate moments, addressing God, or a lover, thou remained the norm until modern times. But gradually politeness spread so widely among speakers of English thatyou entirely displaced thou.

Both God and lovers continued to play significant roles in many English speakers’ lives, so even as thou disappeared everywhere else, it lingered in prayers, liturgy, and literature. Hard to imagine Keats using you in his ode:

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,

Or Tennyson, in his “In Memoriam A.H.H.,” addressing God:

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

But by the 20th century, even poets and Bible translators had switched to you.

Even with you usurping the whole of second-person pronouns, the impulse to distinguish between singular and plural remains. That’s why we have plural locutions that prompt purists to gnashing of teeth: you all, y’all, yous, you’ns, and of course that all-time favorite, stemming from a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, you guys.

Would that the purists could resuscitate thou instead. But I’m afraid it’s too late. Thouart lost and gone forever. Dreadful sorry!


September 5, 2011 – By Allan Metcalf

It’s the Daily Mail gone madder

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on September 25, 2011

BBC turns its back on year of Our Lord: 2,000 years of Christianity jettisoned for politically correct ‘Common Era’

By CHRIS HASTINGS –  25th September 2011

The BBC has been accused of ‘absurd political correctness’ after dropping the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians.

The Corporation has replaced the familiar Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

Some of the BBC’s most popular programmes including University Challenge, presented by Jeremy Paxman, and Radio 4’s In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, are among the growing number of shows using the new descriptions.

=BBC goes PC with BCE: The birth of Jesus will no longer be used as a reference point at the Corporation. The Before Christ time marker will be replaced with Before Common EraBBC goes PC with BCE: The birth of Jesus will no longer be used as a reference point at the Corporation. The Before Christ time marker will be replaced with Before Common Era
God fearing: University Challenge, presented by Jeremy Paxman, is among the growing number of shows using the new descriptions God fearing: University Challenge, presented by Jeremy Paxman (pictured here with the Corpus Christi team), is among the growing number of shows using the new descriptions

The BBC’s religious and ethics department says the changes are necessary to avoid offending non-Christians.

It states: ‘As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.

In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD.’

But the move has angered Christians, mystified other faith leaders and been branded unnecessary by the Plain English Campaign. Critics say the new terms are meaningless because, just like AD and BC, they still denote years in relation to the life of Christ.

End of an era: The website for BBC Religion and Ethics, headed by commissioning editor Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is littered with references to Common Era and Before Common EraThe website for BBC Religion and Ethics, headed by commissioning editor Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is littered with references to Common Era and Before Common Era

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: ‘I think this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history. These changes are unnecessary and they don’t achieve what the BBC wants them to achieve.

‘Whether you use Common Era or Anno Domini, the date is actually still the same and the reference point is still the birth of Christ.’

Marie Clair of the Plain English Campaign said: ‘As with most politically correct innovations, I am sure this was done with the best of intentions. But it is difficult to see what the point of the changes are if people do not understand the new terms. It sounds like change just for the sake of change.’

The website for BBC Religion and Ethics, headed by commissioning editor Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is littered with references to Common Era and Before Common Era.

However, the BBC bizarrely insists the bbc.co.uk/religion website has nothing to do with Mr Ahmed and is actually the responsibility of BBC Learning.

The terms are not confined to religious output and have also been used in news bulletins. Some reports add to the confusion by switching between both terms in the same item.

A report on historic monuments in Jerusalem, for instance, informed viewers that Temple Mount, a shrine which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, was built in ’70 AD (the Common Era)’; while a recent report on frankincense quoted one reference to 7000 BC before describing another event as taking place in the 1st Century BCE.

Enlarge Calendar used for 1500 years

The BBC’s Learning and GCSE Bitesize websites, which are aimed at schoolchildren, also use the terms.

The Learning website advises that ‘BCE/CE is now more acceptable to a greater number of faiths and religions’.

This is absurd political correctness and these new terms do not mean anything to anyone. I think it’s an example of the BBC trying to undermine Christianity by pushing an aggressive secularism. Rev Peter Mullen

One of the BBC’s study guides highlights Greek philosopher Demokritos, whose dates are given as 460-370 BCE, while a section on GCSE Bitesize on American playwright Arthur Miller says that the first tragedies were written by the Greeks in the 5th Century BCE.

Similarly, a section about the rules of Hindu warfare refers to 3000 BCE.

A Radio 3 profile of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, stated he lived from 551 BCE to 479 BCE.

Should BC and AD be scrapped for Common Era and Before Common Era?



All polls

BBC presenters and producers have used the phrase in their online blogs. Last year, Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley referred to the construction of the Temple of Solomon in about 950 BCE.

Earlier this year, Stephen Marsh, producer of the upcoming 23 Degrees science programme, used a reference to 250 BCE in an item on the summer solstice.

Often viewers have no idea why presenters, contributors and guests are using the new terms.

In an edition of In Our Time broadcast in March, one contributor made several references to the Common Era in a discussion on sacred Hindu texts. Melvyn Bragg did not feel the need to clarify it.

Offended: Ann Widdecombe, the Catholic former Tory MinisterOffended: Ann Widdecombe, the Catholic former Tory Minister

This is not the first time the BBC has caused controversy over its use of alien language to promote a politically correct, Europhile agenda.

Its increasing reliance on metric measurements rather than the imperial system and its occasional reference to expenditure in terms of euros rather than pounds has infuriated many viewers.

Several prominent Christians last night blasted the Corporation for sidelining Christianity.

The Rev Peter Mullen, Anglican chaplain to the London Stock Exchange, said: ‘This is absurd political correctness and these new terms do not mean anything to anyone.

‘I think it’s an example of the BBC trying to undermine Christianity by pushing an aggressive secularism.

‘I would be very surprised if any other faith had complained about the use of Anno Domini and Before Christ.’

Ann Widdecombe, the Catholic former Tory Minister, said: ‘I think what the BBC is doing is offensive to Christians. They are discarding terms that have been around for centuries and are well understood by everyone.

‘What are they going to do next? Get rid of the entire calendar on the basis that it has its roots in Christianity?’ A spokesman for the Church of England said that although both terms were common, BC and AD ‘more clearly reflect Britain’s Christian heritage’.

Traditional: Presenter John Humphrys will continue to use BC and AD Traditional: Presenter John Humphrys will continue to use BC and AD

Several of the BBC’s most well-known presenters said they saw no problem with the established system of AD and BC.

John Humphrys, who presents Radio 4’s Today programme and TV’s Mastermind, said: ‘I will continue to use AD and BC because I don’t see a problem.

‘They are terms which most people use and are clearly understood.’ Historian Simon Schama, who has presented several programmes for the BBC, said: ‘As a Jew I don’t have any problems with AD or BC. But CE and BCE are used frequently in Jewish circles.

‘I have been familiar with them since the Fifties, so it’s not like the BBC have just made them up.’

Other faith leaders were divided on the move.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute, said: ‘I don’t know anyone who has been offended by AD and BC, so why change them?’

But Rabbi Jonathan Romain, from Maidenhead Synagogue, said he could see the logic behind the change.

He said: ‘ “In the year of Our Lord” is a religious view that is not shared by many across the world, or even the UK. The change to BCE and CE is simply more inclusive.’

The BBC said last night: ‘The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems.

‘Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2041265/BBC-turns-year-Our-Lord-2-000-years-Christianity-jettisoned-politically-correct-Common-Era.html#ixzz1Z074ykp6

Guardian Reality check: has the BBC dropped the terms BC/AD?

The BBC is replacing the use of BC and AD with more politically correct alternatives. Or so the Mail on Sunday has claimed. Is it true? Polly Curtis fact checks the story. Email your views topolly.curtis@guardian.co.uk or contact her on Twitter@pollycurtis


BBC logo

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

There were reports on Sunday that the BBC is replacing AD and BC – Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ – with “Common Era” and “Before Common Era”. University Challenge, presented by Jeremy Paxman, and Radio 4’s In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, are said to be among the converts.

The claim

The Mail on Sunday reports in a story headlined “BBC turns its back on year of Our Lord: 2,000 years of Christianity jettisoned for politically correct ‘Common Era'”:

The BBC has been accused of ‘absurd political correctness’ after dropping the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians. The Corporation has replaced the familiar Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

The facts

I asked the BBC whether it is true that the terms AD and BC had been dropped. They categorically denied it. A spokesperson said:

bbcWhilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.

The story originated from the BBC’s religion website,http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/. In the frequently asked questions section of its website, it says:

Why does bbc.co.uk/religion use BCE and CE instead of BC and AD? In line with modern practice bbc.co.uk/religion uses BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD. As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.

I’m told that individual programme and website editors are free to make such decisions but that this decision would have been with regards to a tiny minority of the BBC’s output and is certainly not a cross-organisation policy.

The verdict

No, the BBC hasn’t dropped the use of BC and AD, but one website editor decided that BCE/CE was more appropriate. But that hasn’t stopped columnists pitching on the wider accusation. Boris Johnson writes” BC or BCE? The BBC’s edict on how we date events is AD (absolute drivel). Melanie Phillips in the Mail argues that “Our language is being hijacked by the left”. Christian Today says the BBC has been accused of “political correctness“.




Spants, swackets and shooties, oh my!

Posted in Uncategorized by aggslanguage on September 25, 2011

Debenhams forced to add new words to ‘fashion glossary’ to help staff and shoppers


Debenhams' Fashion Dictionary gets an update with 'spants' and 'swackets'.jpeg

 A pair of skorts, part shorts, part skirts

It may seem like a foreign language but ‘spants’ and ‘swackets’ are flying off the hangers in a High Street store chain.

Department store Debenhams has been forced to add new words to a fashion dictionary it gives to personal shoppers, due to an influx of terms that have emerged from the fashion press.

Terms such as ‘jardigan’ (jacket + cardigan) and ‘treggings’ (trousers + leggigns) are now only understood by shoppers thanks to the glossary.

Debenhams decided to produce the dictionary so that every shopper, both fashion expert and non expert alike, can shop easily and clearly in all of our stores.

The unusual ways of describing clothing have even made the Oxford English Dictionary, include terms such as ‘jeggings’ (jeans + leggings) and ‘mankini’ (man’s bikini) for 2011.

Debenhams spokesperson Ed Watson said: ‘The addition of jeggings and mankini to the Oxford English Dictionary shows our glossary informed the masses and we now need to take it upon ourselves to create clarification once more.’

‘We are still aiming to strip away as much of this new language as possible and use plain English to describe everything we sell.’

‘We believe that these words are only properly understood by approximately five per cent of the population – yet they are commonly used throughout the fashion industry.

‘It’s virtually a secret language, designed solely for fashion experts and people who read fashion magazines on a daily basis.’


A cardigown, (cardigan + dressing gown), left, and shace

The store is encouraging the fashion industry to use existing English words to describe garments rather than these made up amalgamations.

Mr Watson added: ‘Ideally we would like to drop all these amalgamations, but our hands are tied due to the terms being used on search engines.

‘We are committed to keeping their use to a minimum. Hopefully the dictionary will go some way to cleaning up the confusion.’


New fashion dictionary

  • Mangrow: Baby grow for men
  • Shinos: Short/chinos
  • Trogues: Trainer/brogues
  • Jorts: Jean/shorts
  • Athleisure: Clothes to take you from work to gym
  • Spants: Skirt/pants
  • Swacket: Sweater/jacket
  • Glittens: Mittens that roll back to reveal gloved fingers

Previous fashion dictionary

  • Skorts: Skirt/short, shorts with the look of a skirt i.e. culottes
  • Mandals: Man/sandals, sandals for men.
  • Mackets: Mac/jacket, a cross between a mac and a jacket.
  • Shoots: Shoe/boots, not quite a shoe nor a boot but something in between
  • Meggings: Male/leggings, very tight jersey trousers for men



‘It is now easier to understand complex calculus than some of the words commonly used by commentators within the fashion industry to describe garments’

Marie Clair, spokesperson for Plain English Campaign said: ‘The world of fashion is reliant on these changing trends, which are often based on little more than classic foundations with clever twists.

These latest words are just existing, familiar words that have been cut and stitched to make nothing more than the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’.


By MAYSA RAWI –  21st September 2011

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2040058/Spants-swackets-shooties-oh-Debenhams-forced-add-new-words-fashion-glossary-help-staff-shoppers.html#ixzz1YzHsKJMW