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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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Academic Paper


Title: When is a Change Not a Change? A Case Study on the Dialect Origins of New Zealand English
Author: David Britain
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Berne
Linguistic Field: Phonology; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In studying language change, variationists are, naturally perhaps, more interested in the new, innovative form than in the old conservative one, and because of the actuation problem, investigations of changes in progress very rarely are able to shed light on the change in its very earliest stages. In this article, I suggest that we should perhaps pay more attention than we have at present to the origins of the change (in addition to its route and destination) and the nature of the conservative form if we are to chart ongoing changes in an accurate way. Here, I highlight an example of a feature of New Zealand English (NZE) (realizations of the MOUTH diphthong with front mid-open onsets) that has, until recently, been assumed to have resulted from a change of the Southern Shift-kind—a raising and fronting to [εʊ~εə]—but which, as I demonstrate using contemporary and past dialectological, as well as sociodemographic evidence, did not undergo this change in this way. Indeed, the supposedly conservative [aʊ] form has barely been used at all as a conversational vernacular variant in NZE. I argue here that the present-day NZE realization is far more likely to be the outcome of a process of dialect leveling operating on the mixture of forms brought to New Zealand by British and Irish migrants in the 19th century. The moral of the story is that if we think we observe a change in progress from A to B, we need to provide evidence not just of the existence of B, but also of the prior existence of A.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Language Variation and Change Vol. 20, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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