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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

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What changes in phonology took place from Common Germanic to Old English?

-old English consonants: alveopalatal C, j, s

-front mutation of vowels depending on what follows (e.g. o -> e (olium -> ele) ; ea/eo -> y (eald -> yldra)


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What was Old English morphology like?

-Noun declension :*nouns divided into -a stems (masc. and neut.) and -o stems (fem.)

                           *various cases (N,A,G,D) in both singular and plural


-Personal Pronouns: *personal pronouns in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person -> Singular, Dual, Plural

                               *various cases (N,A,G,D)





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What was Old English syntax like?

SVO: basic word order

VSO. basic word order in interrogatives and imperatives



SOV: in dependent clauses

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Where did Old English lexicon come from?

Indo-European origin: words common to all Germanic languages (kinship terms, sun, water, eat, tree)

Common Germanic origin: e.g. back, bone

West Germanic origin: e.g. idle, immediately

Celtic: place names (Avon, Dover, London, Thames)


Loans: Old Norse: words connected to the sea, battle, cultural items

           Latin as main influence on religious/intellectual life

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What types of semantic change have been taking place over the course of history?

-Amelioration: shift in meaning towards a more positive quality

-Pejoration shift in meaning towards a more negative quality

-Widening: Generalisation: shift in meaning from specific to general

-Narrowing: Specification: shift in meaning from general to specific

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Name an example for each Amelioration, Pejoration, Widening and Narrowing

Amelioration: Nice (not knowing - silly - delightful)

Pejoration: Silly (blessed - innocent - foolish)

Widening: Dog ( specific dog breed - dog in general)

Narrowing: Meat (food - processed animal flesh)


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Middle English History

Describe the historic events during the time when Middle English was spoken

What lead to a rise of the English language?


-From 1066: Norman invasion

                        *French as language of the high society

                        *Latin as language of the church

                        *English spoken by working class - no prestige

1095: beginning of The Crusades

1204: King John of England loses Normandy

           *French loses influence

           *standard English gains in influence

1348- 1351: Black Death

           *1/3 of population dies, social turmoil

1337-1453: Hundred Year War England - France

                      *England loses all French possessions

1362: English as official language for legal proceedings


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Characteristics of Middle English phonology


-Consonants: three new fricatives

-Change in vowels

-OE diphtongs reduced to monotongs


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Characteristics of Middle English morphology

nouns -reduction in noun declension system

             -symmetry in noun declension system

personal pronouns:*fewer cases (subject, object, possessive)

                                    *loss of Dual form

                                     *new possessive form



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Characteristics of Middle English morphology

nouns -reduction in noun declension system

             -symmetry in noun declension system

personal pronouns:*fewer cases (subject, object, possessive)

                                    *loss of Dual form

                                     *new possessive form



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Middle English syntax

-as in OE and PdE: adjective + noun

       -less often than in OE: noun + adjective  /  adjective + noun + adjective

-possessive "of"

-noun adjuncts

Verb Phrases:  -perfect tense (e.g. "hauest don")

                            -progressive tense  (e.g I am yn beldynge of a pore house)

-Auxiliary Verbs (e.g. mowe)

-"Do"- explosion: -substitute for previous verb

                                -as causative (like  "have sth done")

                                -next to main verb


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Middle English syntax within clauses

-trend toward mordern word order SVO

-occasionally SOV

-VSO in questions and commands

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Middle English vocabulary

-massive increase in vocabulary through borrowing

-layering of vocabulary: colloquial/formal ; everyday/technical ; general/specialized

     -> loss of inflectional system

      -> many phonemes

      -> cosmopolitan

-Scandinavian / Norse influence

-French influence most important (several bilingual generations, very few English texts before 1200)

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New Affixes from French in Middle English

-prefixes: counter- , de- , in-, mal

-suffixes: -able, -age, -al ...

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Early Modern English History

1476: Introduction of printing

late 15th to 16th century: Renaissance

16th century Protestant Reformation

late 16th century: Rise of Nationalism

16th to 17th century: economic changes (urbanization, rise of middle class)

Industrial Revolution

American Revolution

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Language situation in Early Modern English

-Conscious borrowing from Latin vs. Rejection (inkhorn terms)

-speling reform

-dictionaries introduced

-The English Academy

-Emerge of Grammar: proper inproper / education of middle class / organization / universal

-varieties of English


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Early Modern English phonology

-new fricative consonant and new nasal consonant

-Great Vowel Shift: * i -> ai = tyme -> time

                                  * u ->au= cou -> cow

                                  *e -> i=    fet -> feet

                                   *o -> u= goos > goose

                                    *a -> ei= nam -> name

                                    -> LOSS OF VOWEL LENGTH


Long vowels pronounced in higher positions, Loss of diphtongization

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Early Modern English syntax

-more flexible than today

-usually SVO

-elegancy of wirting -> complexation of sentences

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Early Modern lexis

-heavy borrowing from Latin and non-Indo-European languages

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From Old English to Present Day English - Syntax

-simplification of case system from 5 to 2

-collapse of articles from 3 to 1

-reduction in number of verb forms

-reduction of verb auxiliary system (have - be ) -> (have)

-disappearance of impersonal verb form (''me thinks'')

-harmonization of subject position in main and subordinate clause (SVO)

-demise of V2 status, e.g. inversion not required after adverbs (''probably he will come")

-development of conversion (zero derivation), e.g lunch (noun) -> to lunch (v)

-relaxation of congruence requirement ('the police have arrived")

-lack of congruence between formal and semantic sentence categories (''the police have arrived")



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History of linguistics - Overview

-began around 2500 B.C. when writing was established

-began in Egypt / southern Mesopotamia

-in cuneiform on clay tablets

-list of nouns and verbs in Sumerian

-translation into Akkadian (Babylonian)

-began because of language change and impact on religion and legalese

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Linguistics in Greece -Investigation of language

-highly intellectual spirit

-language: contact with other languages

-investigation of language in the context of philosophia

-linguistics: Stoics (from 300 B.C.)