Saturday, February 12, 2005

Theory I: The Shift of the English Language

This will be the first theory of mine that I am posting. Theories of history involve recognizing and studying patterns in the past. This one is about linguistics.

The study of languages has often intrigued me. The way they develop, grow, spread, and interact with other languages. This is not just about what we speak, but also what we read and write. The ability to communicate using details and elaborating something was crucial to the founding of civilization. You can’t tell someone to construct a whole temple by growls, grunts, and snorts. Languages have helped us to survive, spread across the world, and for many of us prosper.
This particular theory is about an interesting characteristic of the English language. If one studies the English language during the 1300s and 1400s one will find it is extremely difficult to understand. If one reads literature from about 300 years later, such as the original works of Shakespeare or Newton, one will be surprised at how easy it is to understand them. Clearly, English made a major shift from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. Now if this was a gradual change that was constantly occurring, then one would expect today’s English, another 300 years after Newton and Shakespeare, to be very different than the one used by those two people. Yet, it is not. But why? The only trouble in the words used by those two is that their font and some of their letters are slightly different than today’s. From this evidence I have come to a conclusion that the English language undergoes great and rapid change every few centuries. I suspect it is about every 500 years. If that is true then right now we are currently undergoing one of those great and rapid changes in the English language.
The evidence for that is clear in today’s informal grammar. Being a high-school student, I know many a strict English teacher who persevere in correcting us students. One example of this change in grammar is in the use of the word “me”. Indeed me seems to be changing its role from a direct object to a subject in itself. I predict that if one were to take a time machine and travel 100 years into the future, the English he/she would hear would be quite different from today’s English.
As you can see, grammar is changing by itself. At the same many other languages are having a substantial influence on English, namely Spanish on American English. As more and more Mexican immigrants settle here, they will undoubtedly mix Mexican words and phrases into English. After all, the United States is a melting pot. As Mexican immigration increases so will the Spanish effect on English. The same can be said for all the languages of immigrants entering the U.S.
I want to spread this idea around, so please send this post to people you believe might be interested. Also, make sure you whoever you send this post to knows it is coming from Historium. I want some feedback on what others think of this. Good scholarly debate is always interesting.

4 comments:

Charone said...

Does that mean that "nukular" will become correct pronunciation in the future?

GeoBandy said...

Interesting theory. It might be worth noting that between the middle ages and the Elizabethan period the world, as the people of the British Isles saw it, "got smaller", and influences from a much wider array of sources could enter the culture and, consequently, the language.

jomama said...

I too am interested in languages.

What other language would you say
that you cut a tree down before you
cut it up?

Zhuge Kenshin said...

that's a very different way of looking at languages.