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Week9-2 - Hayes Introductory Linguistics p 376 Chapter 13...

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Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 376 Chapter 13: Historical Linguistics 1. Outline Languages change over time, in an interesting and paradoxical way. The speakers of a language usually easily with their grandparents in childhood and with their grandchildren in old age. This covers five generations. But consider a passage of prose from the English of about 40 generations ago (Old English, about 1000 A.D.): urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg [ ˈ urn ɛ g ɛˈ d æ ɣ w amlikan ˈ l ̥ af ˈ syl ɛ us to ˈ d æ ɣ ] our daily bread give us today ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ This would be unintelligible to a speaker of Modern English, and many of the morphemes have evolved so as to be only faintly recognizable (e.g. [dæ ɣ ] = day , [ ˈ l ̥ af] = loaf , [lik] = -ly ). Somehow, a series of changes that were little noticed as they were happening have gradually converted English into an entirely different language. Just to show an intermediate stage, the following passage is a Middle English translation (ca. 1400 A.D.) of the same Biblical verse. Remember to read it phonetically, not according to spelling. (This should give you a clue why letters have such different values in English than they have in European languages.) [gev ə to us to ur ə et ʃə ə s bred] give to us today our each day’s bread Historical linguistics attempt to understand the process of linguistic change. The two fundamental questions in the field are: (a) How and why do languages change? (b) What is the history of the languages of the world? 2. Descent; related languages When linguists speak of the “ancestry” of a language, they have a specific meaning in mind. If Language B is descended from Language A, it means that there has been a continuous transmission of the language, from generation to generation, going from A to B (with gradual changes over time). We can speak of this form of language transmission as descent . Modern English is related to Old English by descent (is “descended from” Old English), as there is a continuous link through 40 generations of speakers between the two. We need to be careful about the term “descent”: it certainly does not imply an actual chain of biological ancestors, because there are countless people who are native speakers of a language whose parents are not. Such speakers are part of the chain of transmission just as much as children of native speakers.
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Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 377 For linguists, descent is the gold standard for language identity—descent has a completely clear meaning and can be diagnosed with near certainty if enough data are available. Descent is not always used as the criterion of language identity in popular culture, however. For instance, in the real world you will hear people say things like: “Modern English is a mixture of Old English, French, and Latin.” This statement is perfectly true as a description of the vocabulary of Modern English, since over the centuries English has borrowed thousands of words from French and Latin. But English is descended
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