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Linguistics and Change Essay

“It is very easy to demonstrate to English speakers that languages change over time”. (Holmes, 210) Language is always changing just because of the time, the people, the gender, the age, the social class, etc. It is very normal to see even in a decade that language has change in some ways, it always maintain the original background but as it goes changing it may be that you won’t recognize it that much.

Like an example that is mentioned by Holmes, it says that the k of knit and knife wasn’t silent in the fifteenth century. So it can be seen how important the matter of time is in language change. Another example given by Holmes is about the meaning of the words like once nice meant ‘precise’, and before that it meant ‘fastidious’ and earlier still it meant ‘ignorant’. Language varies in three ways:

-in physical space
Which are the major ways that variation occurs in language. We can understand by variation that is the way language changes, a general term, general changes. And by change we can understand that is when a word, the pronunciation, etc. is modified overtime. In fewer words is the modification of a special concept. So “a language change has its origins in variation” (Holmes, 212) its understood that when a new form is spread it means that the change its being done. And if at the end the new form is now used instead of the old one it means it has already completed the change. That’s called ‘fait accompli’.

The changes spread depending on the social factors such as gender, status, age, region, etc. “Linguistic changes infiltrate groups from the speech of people on the margins between social or regional groups via the ‘middle’ people who have contact in more than one group” (Holmes 218) this is called change from group to group, and it determines that the middle class has much more contact than for example the high with the low, but as an intermediate the changes can be made in all groups, specially if it comes from the high and it goes to the low.

There’s also the change from style to style that is about the formal and casual speech. It goes from a style to another and from an individual to another and from a social group to another. And the change word to word, “sound changes spread through different words one by one”. (Holmes, 222) this is known as lexical diffusion and it means it begins in one word and then goes further with similar phonetic sound words. But it’s not all at the same time.

As a conclusion I might say that I think language change is a complex concept because the change involves a lot of factors that make it happen. But at the end it continues happening and won’t stop. That’s why the older people barely understand the new changes, but the ones that understand the new ones, will have a hard time with the future ones.


New York: Longman, 1992.

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