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Lecture 11

LING 320 Lecture 11

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McGill University
LING 320
Lyle Campbell

Historical Linguistics • All living languages change all the time ◦ ex. English in 878 ‣ spelling changes, changes in meaning ‣ some words are completely different ◦ Chaucer (14th century) ‣ somewhat more like what we know ‣ influence of French ◦ Shakespeare (1600ish) ‣ can read almost all of it • Prescriptionists have always been around ◦ Some people resist language change • Internal vs. External Change ◦ Internal: result of natural language change, made by speakers in the language ‣ ex. cot and caught merger ◦ External: changes with a source outside the language ‣ ex. borrowed words like schmuck into English ◦ People tend to object to both, when they notice, but are generally more aware of external change (corruption) Historical Linguistics: The study & theory of how languages change • Methodological hiccup: historical linguists were trying to study language change, which they thought was unobservable • Structuralist Views ◦ Bloomfield, Saussure, etc ◦ Language is a system of relations, with interlocking subsystems ◦ Strict division of synchronic and diachronic study of language: independent dimensions ‣ can study the language at this point in time, or compare two points in time ‣ have to acknowledge two different times as 2 distinct systems ◦ Change can only be observed through its consequences, particularly internal change ◦ No middle ground: either things contrast or they don't ‣ languages change, instead of speakers changing language - get rid of speaker • Observing chang
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