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Homework Help: Does language change slower today than in previous centuries?

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posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 04:53 PM
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I'm doing a small essay for my English class. We just did a run-through of the Canterbury Tales and now the instructor is asking this question:



Language changes today much slower today than in previous centuries. Giving what you know about the causes of the changes in English over the last 1500 years, what might be the reason for the slowing in changes? (Hint: The correct answer will take into consideration the following 3 things: how languages change, geography, and how technology changes the people we can communicate with others).


Now, I'm not sure where he gets this assumption, and if he has any basis to make that assumption I'm willing to call him on it. Personally, and with no professional knowledge do I assert, I think language changes much faster today than it ever has before. Am I wrong?

[edit on 7-2-2007 by iceofspades]




posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 07:36 PM
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I would say languages change slower for a few reasons. One is that geographically, we know pretty much all the people/languages in the world. In history, as these people/languages were being discovered by explorers, languages were shifted/adapted/etc. to help with communication (or maybe just 'cause the other groups' words sounded better). Also, technologically, I don't believe we're having as big of a boom as there was a few years ago. Yes, we are still coming out with new technology, but it doesn't seem to be happening as fast as it was. (I could be wrong on that, so don't quote me.)

I'm pretty sure that covered all of your instructor's assumptions...



posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 08:19 PM
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Languages are changing faster than any other time in the history of the planet.

The internet is killing almost every language on the planet other than English, and almost every other tongue incorporates some English in everyday use. But English is also a hodge podge of many different languages.

I see a future where some sort of bastardized version of English will become the only language on the planet. Most of this will be due to the need to communicate with everyone else in the world on a level playing field.

200 years ago people pretty much stayed where they were born and only spoke the local dialect of the language in that region. Now, out of necessity, people need to be able to talk to each other as they conduct business throughout the world. More and more people travel for vacation than ever before in history, they pick up local bits of those languages and incorporate them into their own vernacular, and thus further dilute languages into a common denominator.

Every field of study has their own nomenclature but I think the internet is also breaking down those barriers. We are rapidly moving towards one homogeneous language for the entire world.
And it won't be Esperanto, a language develops over time for what is convenient for the users. It's not something you can force on a populous.

I'd say your teacher is wrong on this one.



(God, I hope I made sense to you. I'm still working on my English)



posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 08:42 PM
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Modern technology such as radio, television, and the Internet does lead to standardization of language, reduction in regional dialects, accents, etc. But at the same time technology paired with popular culture spreads new words faster than was possible ever before, following fads and trends.

So, I'd say it's a mixed bag. As a whole, the language is still definitely changing, perhaps even more rapidly, yet the diversity within the language is certainly shrinking.



posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 09:18 PM
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Here's what I wrote in response to the question:




I don't believe language is changing any slower than in previous centuries. In fact, I would assert that language today changes faster than it ever has before. One of the three causes of linguistic evolution is language contact, or when speakers of different dialects and tongues communicate. With the advent of the advent of the Internet and global communications, people of all types can communicate regardless of location, effectively melding many different modules of language together and fueling this catalyst for linguistic change to a higher degree than ever before.


Don't you just love disagreeing with teachers?



posted on Feb, 7 2007 @ 10:37 PM
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I like your response.

I was always one to buck the system, and teachers were always one of my favorite targets.

I got in trouble for challenging a teacher in the 60's that Columbus did not discover America, and pointed out that we had Native Indians in the class that had ancestors that were here long before Columbus was ever born.

I was called disruptive and sent to the Principle's office, but I know now that what is in the text books is not always right.



posted on Feb, 8 2007 @ 07:30 PM
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Here was his response:




I like your willingness to think contarian, but it's simply no true. The 200 years between the Norman Invasion and Chaucer's writings were very substantial. A a modern day English speaker can understand Chaucer, but you couldn't read English from around the Norman Invasion. However, the 900 years from Chaucer to now has not led to this degree of distance. Having widespread written language and literacy slows changes greatly. Today's rapid communication prevents pockets of people altering the language through isolation like they used to. Your answer explains broader mulitlingualism, but not changes to an existing language.


He does make sense...but I'm not sure if I can accept it.



posted on Feb, 8 2007 @ 07:54 PM
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Yeah he may be somewhat right, but could someone from Chaucer's time understand some L.A. valley girl's dialect?

"Like hello you know I like totally need the 411 on that guy!"

(in my best valley girl impersonation
)



[edit on 2/8/2007 by djohnsto77]



posted on Feb, 10 2007 @ 05:40 PM
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Originally posted by djohnsto77
Yeah he may be somewhat right, but could someone from Chaucer's time understand some L.A. valley girl's dialect?

"Like hello you know I like totally need the 411 on that guy!"

(in my best valley girl impersonation
)


I definitely agree with you. I understand what he's saying, but I don't see the changes in languages in the past 900 years is as small as he describes. Put your average bratty Myspace kid in a room with Chaucer and it will be like listening to a conversation between Stephen Hawking and Paris Hilton


[edit on 10-2-2007 by iceofspades]



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