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Chapter 7 Historical Linguistics

I. Decide whether each of the following statements is True or False:

l.T     2.T     3.T     4.F    5.F     6.T     7.F     8.F     9.T     10.F

11.T     12.F    13.T     14.F     15.F     16. F     17. T     18. T     19. F     20.T

 

II. Fill in each of the following blanks with one word which begins with the letter given:

21.Historical 22.diachronic 23.Renaissance 24.Vowel 25.Apocope 26.epenthesis 27.Law 28. Metathesis 29.Backformation 30.broadening 31.protolanguage 32.assimilation 33.internal 34.comparative 35. morphosyntactic

 

III. There are four choices following each statement. Mark the choice that can best complete the statement:

36.D     37.A     38.B     39.C    40.A     41.C    42.B     43.B     44.A    45.C

46. D     47.A     48. D     49. D     50. C

IV. Define the following terms:

1. Apocope : Apocope is the deletion of a word-final vowel segment.

2. Metathesis: Sound change as a result of sound movement is known as metathesis. It involves a reversal in position of two neighbouring sound seg-ments.

3. Derivation: It is a process by which new words are formed by the addition of affixes to the roots, stems or words.

4. back-formation: It is a process by which new words are formed by taking away the supposed suffix of an existing word.

5. semantic narrowing: Semantic narrowing is a process in which the meaning of a word be-comes less general or inclusive than its historically earlier meaning.

6. Protolanguage: It is the original form of a language family that has ceased to exist.

7. Haplology: It refers to the phenomenon of the loss of one of two phonetically similar syllables in sequence.

8. Epenthesis: A change that involves the insertion of a consonant or vowel sound to the middle of a word is known as epenthesis.

9. Compounding: It is a process of combining two or more than two words into one lexical unit.

10. Blending: It is a process of forming a new word by combining parts of other words.

11. semantic broadening: Semantic broadening refers to the process in which the meaning of a word becomes more general or inclusive than its historically earlier denota-tion.

62. semantic shift: Semantic shift is a process of semantic change in which a word loses its former meaning and acquires a new, sometimes related, meaning.

63. Great Vowel Shift: It is a series of systematic sound change at the end of the Middle English period approximately between 1400 and 1600 in the history of English that involved seven long vowels and consequently led to one of the major discrepancies between English pronunciation and its spelling system.

64. Acronym: An acronym is a word created by combining the initials of a number of words.

65. sound assimilation: Sound assimilation refers to the physiological effect of one sound on an-other. In an assimilative process, successive sounds are made identical, or more similar, to one another in terms of place or manner of articulation, or of haplology.

V. Answer the following questions:

66. What is the purpose or significance of the historical study of language

1) Researches in historical linguistics shed light on prehistoric developments in the evolution of language and the connections of earlier and later variants of the same lan-guage and provide valuable insights into the kinship patterns of different languages.

2) The identification of the changes that a particular language has undergone enables us to reconstruct the linguistic history of that language, and thereby hypothesizes its earlier forms from which current speech and writing have evolved.

3) The historical study of language also en-ables them to determine how non - linguistic factors, such as social, cultural and psychological factors, interact over time to cause linguistic change.

 

67. What are the characteristics of the nature of language change

All living languages change with time and language change is inevitable. As a general rule, language change is universal, continuous and, to a considerable de-gree, regular and systematic. Language change is extensive, taking place in virtually all aspects of the grammar.

Although language change is universal, inevitable, and in some cases, vigorous, it is never an overnight occurrence, but a gradual and constant process, often indiscernible to speakers of the same generation.

 

68. What are the major periods in the history of English

The major periods in the history of English are Old English period (roughly from 449 to 1100), Middle English period(roughly from 1100 to 1500), and Modern English period (roughly from 1500 to the pre-sent). Old English dates back to the mid-fifth century when Anglo-Saxons invaded the British Isles from northern Europe.

The pronunciation of Old English is very different from its modem form. For example, the Old English word "ham" is pronounced as /ha:m/. In terms of morphology, nearly half of the nouns are inflected to mark nomi-native , genitive, dative, and accusative cases . In addition, suffixes are added to verbs to indicate tense. Syntactical-ly , the verb of an Old English sentence precedes, hut does not follow, the subject.

Middle English began when the Norman French invaders invaded England under William the Conqueror in 1066. Middle English had been deeply influenced by Norman French in vocabulary and grammar. For example, such terms as " army," " court," " defense," " faith," "prison" and "tax" came from the language of the French rulers.

Modern English period starts with European renaissance move-ment. A di-rect consequence of the Renaissance movement was the revival of Latin as a literary language. In the post-Renaissance period, the "British Empire" set up English-speaking colonies in many parts of the world. By the nineteenth century, English was recognized as the language of the government, the law, higher education, and business and commerce in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Today Modern English is widely used and has in fact become an important tool of international communication among peoples of different countries.

 

69. As language changes over time, the meaning of a word may deviate from its original denotation. Discuss the major types of semantic changes.

 

Major types of semantic changes are semantic broadening, semantic narrowing and semantic shift.

Semantic broadening refers to the process in which the meaning of a word becomes more general or inclusive than its historically earlier denota-tion. Take the word "holiday" for example, The older meaning was a " holy day." Today everyone enjoys a holiday, whether he or she is religious or not.

Semantic narrowing is a process in which the meaning of a word be-comes less general or inclusive than its historically earlier meaning. For ex-ample, " wife," used to mean "any woman," but now it means “married fe-males” only.

Semantic shift is a process of semantic change in which a word loses its former meaning and acquires a new, sometimes related, meaning. For example, the word silly meant “happy” in Old English, and naive in Middle English, but "foolish" in Modern English.

 

70. Over the years from Old English period to the Modern English period, English has undergone some major sound changes. Illustrate these changes with some examples.

The major sound changes include changes in vowel sounds, and in the loss, gain and movement of sounds.

 

The changes in vowel sounds can be seen in the Great Vowel Shift in the history of English, which led to one of the major dis-agreements between the pronunciation and the spelling system of Modern English. These changes involve seven long, or tense vowels, for example

 

Words

Middle English

Modem English

Five

fi:v

faiv

Mouse Mu:s maus
Feet fe:t fi:t
Mood Mo:d mu:d
Break Brε:ken breik

 

Sounds do not just change, they can be lost. vowel sounds change, but some sounds simply disappeared from the general pronunciation of English. One example of sound loss is the /kn - / clusters in the word - initial position. In Old and Middle English, both /k/ and /n/ were pro-nounced, as is shown in the spelling of such words as "knight" and "knee." Although Modern English spelling of these words still keeps the initial letter k, its sound is no longer pronounced.

 

Sound changes can also take the form of sound addition. Sound addition includes the gain or insertion of a sound, for example:

spinle spindle

emty empty

 

Sound change can take the form of sound movement. It involves a reversal in position of two neighbouring sound seg-ments. For example, the /r/ sound in the Old English words "bridd" ("bird") and "hros" ("horse") was moved to the right of the vowel sounds in their Modem English counterparts "bird" and "horse."

 

71. What are the most widely-spread morphological changes in the historical development of English?

 

The most widely-spread morphological changes in the historical development of English are the loss and addition of affixes. A number of morphological rules in Old English are now lost in Modern English. Some of these rules are about derivational affixes, such as suffixes "-baere" and "-bora" . In Old English an adjective would derive if "-baere" was added to a noun, such as:

lust ("pleasure") + baere lustbaere ("agreeable")

 

But this rule has been lost in modern English.

The most dramatic morphological loss concerns the loss of gender and case marking. In Old English,for example, "stn" ("stone") was marked masculine, while "gief" ("gift") and "d…or" ("wild animal") were marked respectively feminine and neuter. In modern English, the gender markers of these words have been lost.

Some affixes have been added to the English morphological system.Take "-able" for example, it has been added to English since the Old English period. At first, words ending in "-able," such as "favourable" and "conceivable," were borrowed altogether from French. Then this suffix be-came a productive rule in English. It was used with other verbs to form ad-jectives. Contemporary English speakers apply this suffix rule to more stems, thus producing new adjectives such as " payable," and “washable.”

 

72.What are the causes of language change Discuss them in detail.

Language changes are due to the following causes:

1) Sound assimilation: Sound assimilation refers to the physiological effect of one sound on an-other. In an assimilative process, successive sounds are made identical, or more similar, to one another in terms of place or manner of articulation, or of haplology, the loss of one of two phonetically similar syllables in sequence. For example, the Old English word "Engla-land" ("the land of the Angles") came to be pronounced “England” through the assimilation of "la-la sounds.

2) Rule simplification and regularization: Some changes are the result of simplification and regularization. The plural forms of borrowed words are usually irregular, thus complex. For example, the plural forms of "agendum", "datum", "curriculum" and "memorandum" are "agenda" , "data" , "curricula" and "mem-oranda" . The irregular plurals of these nouns have been replaced by regular plurals of "agendas", "curriculums", and "memorandums" among many speakers, thus making them simplified and regularized.

3) Internal borrowing: In order to reduce the number of ex-ceptional or irregular morphemes, speakers of a particular language may bor-row a rule from one part of the grammar and apply it generally. For exam-ple, by analogy to the plural formation of "foe-s" and "dog-s", speakers started saying "cows" as the plural of "cow" instead of the earlier plural kine.

4) Elaboration: Rule elaboration occurs when there is a need to reduce ambiguity and increase communicative clarity or expressiveness. If a particular grammatical feature is lost as a re-sult of a change in the phonological system, some other feature may be added in another component of the grammar.

5) Social triggers: Socio-political changes such as wars, invasions, oc-cupation, colonization, and language planning and standardiza-tion policies lead to language changes. For example, in the history of English, the Norman Conquest marked the beginning of the Middle English period. And British colonial settlement, and the country' s political, cultural and economic advances in distant lands such as North America, Oceania, South Africa, and India lead to the change of English into British, American, Australian, South African and Indian varieties.

6) Cultural transmission: Although a new generation has to find a way of using the language of the previous generation, it has to find expressions that can best communicate the views and concepts of the time and the changed and ever-changing social life, and re-create the language of the community. For example, while old people tend to call a refrigerator "icebox," the younger generation is more often heard speaking of a "fridge." This tenuous transmission process adds up to the inevitable and ongoing language change and variation.

7) Children's approximation toward the adult grammar:The way children acquire the language is another basic cause for lan-guage change. Children usually construct their personal grammars by themselves and generalize rules from the linguistic information they hear. Children' s grammar never models exactly after that of the adult speech community, because children are exposed to diverse linguistic infor-mation.

All the above factors contribute to language changes.