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History of the English Language I

Why does language change? What are internal factors?

Principles of Language Change/Principles of Language Production = Internal Factos

-Symmetry: Haus -> Häuser ;  Baum -> Bäume

-Language Economy:  avoiding repetitions by replacing names with pronous, "some" etc.. Shorten texts

-Distinctiveness: true synonymy is very rare. Denotation may be the same, whereas connotation may differ

-Processing Ease: Making texts understandable e.g. by adding words expressing relations (relative pronouns and so on)

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History of the English Language I

Why does language change? What are external factors?

External Factors:

-Living Conditions (social, political, economic pressure, advances in technology)

-Cultural Conventions (religion, lifestyle)

-Media of Communication

-Contact with other languages


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History of the English Language I

What linguistic levels are affected by language change?

Linguistic levels:

-Phonetics (physical aspect of sound production/reception)

-Phonology (patterns of sounds across languages)

-Morphology / Parts of Speech / Syntax (=Grammar)


-Semantics (meaning)

-Discourse/Text (Relations between speech units above sentence level)

-Pragmatics (Relations between speech units and context of situation)


-> Interaction between linguistic levels leading to changes


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Periods of Language Change

Name the periods of language change and the corresponding time span.

What problems result from division into periods?

Common Indo European (CIE)     ~3000 B.C

Common Germanic (CG)            ~100 B.C.

Old English (OE)                        ~450 - 1100 A.D.

Middle English (ME)                   ~1100 - 1500 A.D.

Early Modern English (EmE)       ~1500 - 1800 A.D.

Present-Day English (PDE)         ~1800 - now


Problems: Language change is slow and continuous. There is no clear divide between periods.


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Indo-European History

How do we know about Indo-European linguistics?

-Evidence from archeology: 5000 - 3000 B.C.: Seminomadic tribes with domestic animals and primitive agriculture.

                                        3000 B.C.: Extensive migrations

-Linguistic evidence: Words for real world objects existing in Eastern Europe/ Western Asia:

                                        Common words for cold, winter, wolf .....

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Periods of Language Change

Why were there dialectal differences in Common Germanic?

-until Christian era, Common Germanic was one language with minor dialectal differneces

-migration within Europe lead to development of Germanic languages


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What was Common Germanic like on the various linguistic levels?

-Phonology: First Consonant Shift ( Grimm's Law & Verner's Law)

-Morphology: Complex declension system

                    Complication of adjective declension

                    Verb inflection (aspect -> tense)

-Lexicon: Large common vocabulary not shared by other IE languages

-Syntax: Free word order

-Semantics: Change in meaning of certain words


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Why did Common Germanic change to Old English?

-before ~50 B.C: Celtic tribes

-around 50 B.C: Roman invasion

-from 50 B.C. to ~410: England belongs to Roman Empire

-449: Beginning of Germanic invasions (from Denmark...)

-from 787 to 1000: Viking invasions