LINGUIST List 9.726

Sat May 16 1998

Disc: Recent Change in English

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <brettlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Ralf Vollmann, Disc: Recent Language Change in English ????
  2. Peter T. Daniels, Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English
  3. Marc Hamann, Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English
  4. Mark Mandel, Disc: Recent changes in English
  5. Linda Merlo, Recent Changes: articles

Message 1: Disc: Recent Language Change in English ????

Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 20:57:24 +0200
From: Ralf Vollmann <Ralf.Vollmannkfunigraz.ac.at>
Subject: Disc: Recent Language Change in English ????

while neither having noticed nor having seemed to remark any changes in
english, i have to participate in this discussion, and since there is
some emotion in it, please let me be emotional on the topic -- it's a
discussion, isn't it?: 

what I find most striking in this discussion is the fact how many
linguists still argue in terms of norm and prescriptive patterns. that
prescriptive patterns usually diverge from the language use seems quite
obvious to me, this topic is the basis of the everyday work of a
sociolinguist, if i remember correctly. one could look at the linguistic
differences between sociolects or at the attitudes linguist list readers
have towards these sociolectal features. it has nothing to do with
language change, however.
on the other hand, analyses of why american girlies, oregoners or
"venerable brits" have an identifiable sociolect would be very
interesting. the same, whether PL-SG dissonances between noun and verb
point to transnumeral use, or whether in an area there is another aspect
system than the prescribed one, etc..

but i deny the possibility to observe language change "online" / "as
observers", and i think an analysis of the situation justifies my
viewpoint:

1. prescriptive grammar has a strong influence on a society where
everybody has to attend school. one might see e.g. in the ongoing german
orthographic reform, that under such circumstances, language change
phenomena are not considered as they are in the prescriptive rule
patchwork of the orthography, but one set of prescriptions is simply
replaced by another one, and whether it is accepted or not, is not
decided on the basis of language change phenomena, but on the basis of
social power.

2. sociolectal variants can become language change features under
identifiable sociological circumstances; e.g. when an ingroup defines
itself through a linguistic feature and an outgroup individual wants to
become an ingroup member, then exactly there is a change in the
linguistic attitude of this person. if a feature is not redefined for a
longer period of time, then it may loose its socially marked status and
become a regular feature in this idiom. As long as the ingroup still
exists as such, it will desperately look for another feature.
As the euramerican culture is a patriarchat, i would thus assume that
although a girl that wants to be a girlie and therefore adopts a speech
style identifiable as an ingroup feature of the girlie subculture, she
will succeed in being identified as a girlie, but she will not introduce
language change into english, because she lacks the power of definition
over the whole culture. in this case it is a form of self-stigmatisation
as a member of the girlie ingroup for herself and a group-defining
feature on the border of the group, and an identifying feature within. 
if american academics, however, more and more often "commit the sin", as
it was said, to use a linguistic pattern formerly being a feature not
identified socially as a feature identifying upper class ingroup
members, it may perhaps become such a feature, if the individuals
committing the sin start to believe that it is only a little sin,
perhaps no sin at all. in this case, acceptability prepares the
structure for grammaticality, and we might propose to see a language
change happening.
most of the time, however, and not only -- between the lines -- in this
discussion, variants are used for stigmatisation, i.e. as negative
features, i.e. variants are defined as features of the outgroup --
whereas the ingroup as the norm not to be questioned has no features --
or it has the feature of not having a specific feature... similarly, the
so-called language change phenomena in question have been positively or
negatively evaluated by those observing them, i.e. these were cases of
the observation of sociolinguistic variation and not of language change.

best regards, 

ralf vollmann, institute of linguistics, university of graz, merangasse
70, A-8010 graz, austria, +43/316/380-2419,
Ralf.Vollmannkfunigraz.ac.at, ralfkfs.oeaw.ac.at
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Message 2: Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Thu, 14 May 1998 19:26:11 -0400
From: Peter T. Daniels <grammatimworldnet.att.net>
Subject: Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English

Was it here that someone recently mentioned "persuade" vs. "convince"? I
didn't understand the note. Then this afternoon on an NPR hourly news
roundup, the announcer said a Congressional committee (denied subpoena
power) "hopes that President Clinton will convince his friends and
allies to testify." This sounded odd, and I realized I would have said
"persuade"; wondering why, it seemed as though a "that"-complement would
call for "convince" and a "to"-complement, "persuade". (In both cases, I
think the opposite sounds odd, but it certainly occurs widely.)

Is this an example of syntactic conditioning of lexical choice? Or is
this something I should have been paying attention to in Jim McCawley's
Generative Semantics class 25 years ago?
- 
Peter T. Daniels					grammatimworldnet.att.net
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Message 3: Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English

Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 10:35:55 -0400
From: Marc Hamann <gmhamannsickkids.on.ca>
Subject: Re: 9.716, Disc: Recent Change in English

I wanted to respond to Ralf Vollman's assertion:

>i deny the possibility to observe language change "online"

I would point you to the work of William Labov which fairly persuasively
demonstrates that one can glean real-time information on language change
using a well designed survey method. Using age of respondant as an
indicator of time (older speakers fixed their speech patterns further back
in the past), though potentially misleading, has yielded meaningful
results, often confirmed by follow-up studies several years later.


>As the euramerican culture is a patriarchat, i would thus assume that
>although a girl that wants to be a girlie and therefore adopts a speech
>style identifiable as an ingroup feature of the girlie subculture, she
>will succeed in being identified as a girlie, but she will not introduce
>language change into english, because she lacks the power of definition
>over the whole culture.

Leaving aside the potentially controversial assertion about the nature of
Euroamerican culture, again Labov's work contradicts the premise.
Consistently, young lower-middle class woman are shown to be the vanguard
of language change, i.e. features first observed in this group later spread
to other socio-linguistic strata.

As for the negative reactions of linguists to these "new" features, I think
it is not so much a product of school-taught grammar as innate sense of
normative speech, i.e. "that type of speech irritates me because it is
unlike the way people of _my_ group speak". I have in fact heard people
ridiculing someone for speaking "too proper" or using slang terms
incorrectly, so I tend to doubt that this normative effect has anything to
do with conventional perscriptive grammar, but rather is an expression of
natural human "clannishness".


- ---
Marc Hamann
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Message 4: Disc: Recent changes in English

Date: Fri, 15 May 1998 11:30:19 -0500
From: Mark Mandel <Markdragonsys.com>
Subject: Disc: Recent changes in English

>>>>>>. Dennis Baron <debaronuiuc.edu> writes >>>>>>>>
	[...]
We do have attitude and it would be
hypocritical to pretend otherwise. The interesting thing is how to
factor attitude into description and into linguistic production.
 <<<<<

Or, from what may be another point of view, how to factor our attitudes OUT OF our descriptions of linguistic
phenomena.

 Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : markdragonsys.com 
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 796-0267
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com/

This document was created by voice with Dragon Systems' NaturallySpeaking.
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Message 5: Recent Changes: articles

Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 12:14:46 -0800
From: Linda Merlo <lmerlooclc.k12.ca.us>
Subject: Recent Changes: articles

Lexes's comment that the indefinite article "an" is disappering was, I
believe, not a comment on "a" being substituted for "an." Rather, the
articles "a," "an," and "the" are all evolving out of English.

The dropping of the article began in front of geopolitical terms and acronyms.
Note: 

A) THE UKRAINE > UKRAINE
B) THE JAPANESE agree. > JAPANESE agree.
C) The UN is waiting. > UN is waiting.

These omissions are not only occurring in newspaper headlines, but
they can be heard regularly on National Public Radio. In fact, NPR
did a story on The Ukraine that mentioned the evolution of the name,
and the Ukranian being interviewed said that "Ukraine" without the
word "the" made less sense because "Ukraine" means "Borderland."

While the artilce dropping started with geopolitical words, it has
spread throughout the language.
 Note: *"I'm going to 99 Cent Store."
vs. "I'm going to the 99 Cent Store."

I believe that this evolution is a result of the influence of so many
speakers of English as their L2 who do not have these articles in
their L1. English seems to be adopting the rule that the article is
unnecessary.

Maybe I'll make a prescriptivist bumper sticker that say, "SAVE THE."

Linda Merlo
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