Modern English

Standardization of the English Language

external image Mu51-c25%20-%20Title%20Page.jpg
Above:Title Page from 'Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language' (Sp Coll Mu51-c.25)

The year 1650 marked a general standardization of the English language with the creation of many spelling and grammar books that stopped the previous discrepancies in spelling, even within the same text. One of the major proponents of the standardization of English was Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. He was so disgusted by what he called the “degradation of the English language,” that in 1712 he proposed the creation of an English Language Academy, similar to the French Academy started in 1612 by Cardinal Richelieu. Swift’s proposed English Academy served the same purpose as Richelieu’s. It regulated the English language and offered a prescriptive grammar that served as an example to English speakers, writers, and readers. Though his proposal gained support from such authors as John Dreiden and Jospeh Addison, the academy was never approved. Proponents for standarization such as Nathaniel Bailey decided to write dictionaries with indications of spellings and definitions to aid in the pursuit of the standardization of English.

For Further Reference:
A Brief History of the English Language

New Elements

Due to the Industrial Revolution and British colonization around the globe, new words and dialects emerged from the British language.

The Chart below shows those countries (in pink) who were once part of the British Empire. Chart Courtesey of Wikipedia.

external image The_British_Empire.png

Around 1600, Britain began to colonize around the globe. This gave rise to new dialects of the English language. Due to the lack of interaction with the English isles, many English words simply remained unchanged in Britain's new colonies, in places like America and New Zealand. For example, trash was originally used by the British in the 1700s and remains in use in the United States today. Influence of other languages also affected the new dialects. In the United States, Spanish words such as canyon and stampede soon became the norm in the colonies and also in England, while the influence of the
Aboriginal and Maori languages allowed for such new words as kiwi and haka.

For Futher Info:

Changed Features of the Language Since 1650

At the beginning of the 17th century, English was basically spoken only in England, with a few exceptions. However, Modern English is spoken world-wide; aside from Great Britain, English is spoken in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the East and West Indies. It is difficult to calculate how many people speak English, but it is estimated at about 120,000,000.

Hearing English versus reading English can be two different experiences. Spelling has remained constant, but many of the sounds have considerably changed. While some vowel sounds have remain unchanged, others have split into more than one. For example, the "-a" sounds differently in the words math, pan, was. Consonants have also undergone some changes; for example, the "-gh" in tough and laugh, were pronounced into the 17th century, then it disappeared and became an "-f" sound. Other examples include the "-k" in know and knee, and the "-g" in gnaw, no longer is either pronounced.

Changes in pronunciation of words doesn't affect meaning, however, words that may have had distinct sounds before, now sound similar and give us what we call homonyms, which are words that are spelled differently and have different meanings, but sound the same such as write/right, no/know.

Modern spelling has two features, fixity (with few exceptions) and dissociation from the spoken language. Basically, we spell as we've learned to see it, not by how it sounds. We know that there are multiple sounds designated to certain signs. For example, "-ch" sounds differently in the words chair, champagne, and chromosome.

Modern English has lost many of its inflections. Therefore, since our syntax and meaning is based on word order and less on inflections, it is considered an analytic language, not a synthetic one. The verb ending "-eth" is now gone, as well as the inflected sound of "-ed" in some verbs (we don't pronounce the verb walked as walk-ed). The second person singular of verbs has disappeared, as well as the use of thou. Verbs also saw the disappearance of the subjunctive form. While the use of helping verbs began during older periods of English, it has been solidified in Modern English. Double negatives were often heard for added emphasis in older periods of English, however we no longer use them.

Nouns have seen changes as well. For example, the same sounds can mean different things (as in teachers, teacher's, teachers'). Some nouns can now also be used as verbs (I have a red balloon. - My lip ballooned when I was stung by a bee.) Some of these are distinguished by change in sound (That's a great record. - You should record that.)

English vocabulary changes constantly. Some words are no longer used, some change their meanings, while others are created and become new to the language. Some examples of words no longer used are words like crowd (meaning fiddle), end (meaning gather in harvest), or pink (meaning small). An example of a word that has changed its meaning over time is conceited, which once signified full of imagination/full of judgment, instead of how we use it now to mean thinking too highly of oneself. Also, clever once had a negative meaning, whereas officious used to have a more positive meaning. Some examples of new words in Modern English are jersey, cardigan, mocha, and internet,

The American Dialect
The American English dialect developed from British colonization of Northern America in the 17th century. At this time, most Englanders as well as Scots had what we call a rhotic speech. That means that they would pronounce the "-r" in water or hard whereas the non-rhotic speaker would not. Through the years the American dialect has undergone several changes that the British dialect has not, that has affected certain areas within the United States.

Major American Dialects

There are a few major regional American-English dialects. Many of these dialects can be further divided into many more local dialects. Additionally, the borders of the regions where these dialects are spoken are not necessarily distinct or precise.

New England - This is one of the most distinctive American dialects. Its most notable feature is the dropped, "-r," as in Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Another notable feature is the insertion of an "-r" on words that end in a vowel, as in idear (instead of idea).

New York - There are a few features that make this dialect unique. When an "-r" comes after a vowel, it is often dropped. IR becomes OI (thirty becomes thoity), but OI becomes IR (boil becomes birl). TH becomes D (this and that becomes dis and dat). The "O" also has more of an "AW" sound, where the lips round more like an "o" when pronouncing it (coffee becomes cawfee).

Upper Midwestern - This area was settled by New Englanders and New Yorkers, but it was also influenced by Southerners, as well as Scandinavian and German settlers, and those dialects of Canadian English from right over the border. Boat is pronounced with the lips forming closer together and more to the front. Consequently, words like roof and root, are pronounced more like book and hoof.

Southwestern - This was heavily influenced by Spanish, since by the time the English settled in this area, there had already been as many as ten generations of Spanish speaking people who had lived there. Specifically, the Mexican dialect of Spanish had an important influence on this area, thus some words that have become part of the culture are madre, mesa, cantina, patio, plaza, tortilla.

Rocky Mountain - Developed from the Northern dialects, it is influenced by the Mormons who settled in Utah, and English coal miners who settled in Wyoming. Although the features of this dialect are similar to the Midwestern and even encompass some southern features, there are many words that are native to this dialect. (Examples: kick off meaning to die, and bushed meaning tired)

Pacific Southwest - Words originally used by the gold miners are still used today (Example: pan out to mean succeed)
Since this is where Hollywood is located, many slang words and expressions start here and spread quickly. An extreme exaggeration of the dialect developed in the late 1970's and early 1980's known as "Valley Girl" or "Surfer Dude" dialects.

This is a culturally distinct region of the United States. Generally, Southerners speak slower than in other parts of the country, and this is known as the southern "drawl."

I is pronounced AH (five becomes fahve), and OO is pronounced YOO, (noodle becomes nyoodle). OW (as in crowd) is pronounced as a double syllable AOO (town becomes ta-oon).

Southerners also tend to drop the "-r" as New Englanders do, (however, they don't add an "-r" in words where it's not needed). In such words, the sound becomes UH and AW (each pronounced), (four dogs becomes fo-uh dah-awgs).

Louisiana - Many people in Louisiana speak up to three dialects. The dialects are Cajun French (preserves a number of elements from the older French of the 1600's), Cajun English (we get words like un-YON for onion and Nawlns for New Orleans), Provincial French, and Louisiana French Creole (blends French with African languages spoken by those who were brought over as slaves).

(See above for information on the Appalacian dialect.)

Received British English
While many scholars debate the origins of Received British English, they agree that the term "received" originally meant "that which is generally accepted" or "that accepted by the best society." Therefore, Received British English—also called "BBC English," "Public School English" or "Standard English" —has come to epitomize the ideal, "top end of the scale," of British English because it is regarded as neutral or without an accent.

One of the most noteworthy features of Received British English is the prevalent “intrusive R,” which “involves the insertion of an r-sound at the end of a word ending in a non-high vowel where the next word begins with a vowel.” Examples are as follows:
Intrusive R of Received British English:
put a comma[r]
the idea[r] of
I saw[r] it happen

R not pronounced:
a comma may be added
idea for
I saw it happen

On the other hand, in common with most non-rhotic dialects "formerly" and "formally" are homophones in Received Pronunciation. Simiarly "ion" and "iron".
There is a greater number of distinct vowel sounds, for example "caught", "cot", "cart" are different in Received Pronunciation.
The a sound is particularly elongated, sounding like "ah", noted in the pronunciation of words such as "class". It also drops the h from wh, pronouncing "Wales" and "whales" identically.

This feature is a bit ironic because Received British English is appealing particularly because of the lack of accent and thus seeming perfection of the pronunciation.

For Further Reference:
University of Arizona Page on Received British English

Scots-Irish Influence on American English

About 250,000 Scots-Irish immigrants were living in America by 1776 (that is 1 in 7 colonists being Scots-Irish), and their language did indeed influence changes in the American dialect at the time. They initially settled predominantly in Pennsylvania, and would continue to establish themselves throughout the mid-Atlantic states. A number of features of the dialects in these areas can still be traced to Scots-Irish origins.
Some examples:
  • The use of "till" to express time, as in "a quarter till four"
  • The use of "want" plus a preposition, as in "the dog wants in"
  • double modals, such as "might could" or "might would"
  • new vocabulary: "airish" for chilly or cool, "backset" for a setback in health, "bidabble" for obedient or docile, "bonnyclabber" for curdled sour milk, "cadgy" for lively or aroused, "chancy" for doubtful or dangerous, "let on" for pretend, and "take up" for to begin.

For Further Reference:
American English, by Walt Wolfram
English in the Southern United States, by Stephen J. Nagle

The Singular "Their"

In Old English, the masculine gender was used as the "unmarked" default for some purposes, but the problem of which pronouns to use with an indefinite singular antecedent (which can refer to both men and women) did not exist in quite the same way that it does in more recent English. This is because in Old English, "grammatical gender" was arbitrarily assigned; nouns were assigned a gender which was often independent of the biological sex (if any) of the noun's referent (as also happens in modern German, French etc.). Articles, demonstratives, and adjectives (as well as third person singular pronouns) all took on different forms according to the grammatical gender of the noun words they accompanied. In early Middle English, there was a transition to a system of "natural gender," in which the third person singular pronouns were basically used in accordance with the biological sex of the referents of their antecedent nouns). From there arose the pronominal "generic masculine" construction as such -- in which it is only by a separate convention (somewhat isolated from regular rules of pronoun agreement) that masculine pronouns are used in sentences of the type "Everybody loves his own mother".

The "singular their" construction ("Everybody loves their own mother") came into existence in the late 1300's. So from the 14th century on, both "singular their" and the pronominal generic masculine existed in English, and were two competing solutions for the same problem.

From then on, "singular their" was used without much inhibition (see the examples from the OED) and was not generally considered "bad grammar". It is true that starting in the 16th century, when English grammar began to be a subject of study, some rules of Latin grammar were applied to English; and that the Latin-based rules of grammatical agreement might have been seen as forbidding the English singular "their" construction -- if they were interpreted in a certain linguistically naive way. (This may explain why certain classical-language-influenced authors, such as the translators of the King James Bible, tended to use singular "their" somewhat infrequently -- but see Phillipians 2:3.) However, the earliest specific condemnation of singular "their" that Bodine was able to find (in her 1975 article) dated only from 1795 (more than two centuries after English grammar started being taught, and at least several decades after the beginning of the 18th century "grammar boom").

So it seems that it was only in the late 18th century or early 19th century, when prescriptive grammarians started attacking singular "their" because this didn't seem to them to accord with the "logic" of the Latin language, that it began to be more or less widely taught that the construction was bad grammar. The prohibition against singular "their" then joined the other arbitrary prescriptions created from naïve analogies between English and Latin -- such as the prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition.
But through the 19th and 20th centuries, singular "their" has still continued to be used by a number of even somewhat "literary" authors, as well as commonly in the speech of even many educated individuals.

It is interesting that almost as soon as the banning of singular "their" by grammarians and schoolteachers had gained some degree of acceptance (making many feel that the singular "their" construction was out of place in writing), some people began feeling dissatisfaction with the other alternatives which were permitted by the arbitrary edicts of prescriptive grammarians. So already in 1808/1809, noted author Samuel Taylor Coleridge seems to have rejected "generic masculine" he in some cases (as not being appropriately gender-neutral) -- and since he apparently did not consider singular "their" to be permissible, and probably felt that "he or she" was too cumbersome (especially in repetition), he settled on "it" as the only available solution, as discussed in the following passage:

QUÆRE -- whether we may not, nay ought not, to use a neutral pronoun, relative or representative, to the word "Person", where it hath been used in the sense of homo, mensch, or noun of the common gender, in order to avoid particularizing man or woman, or in order to express either sex indifferently? If this be incorrect in syntax, the whole use of the word Person is lost in a number of instances, or only retained by some stiff and strange position of the words, as -- "not letting the person be aware wherein offense has been given" -- instead of -- "wherein he or she has offended". In my [judgment] both the specific intention and general etymon of "Person" in such sentences fully authorise the use of it and which instead of he, she, him, her, who, whom.

-- Anima Poetæ: From the Unpublished Note-Books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge (1895), p. 190. ["Homo" and "mensch" are Latin and German words which mean `man' in a general sex-neutral sense, as opposed to "vir" and "mann", which mean `man' in the specifically masculine sense.]

Similarly, dissatisfaction with generic "he" and the other prescriptively-allowed alternatives led to proposals for neologistic English gender-neutral singular human pronoun words beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as can be seen at Dennis Baron's "Word that Failed" page.

Recently, various new constructions or new words have been proposed to mitigate perceived English linguistic sexism; these are innovations, and must be evaluated as such. But singular "their" (etc.) is not an innovation, but old established good usage. So here anti-sexism and traditional English usage go hand-in-hand -- and those who object to singular "their" can find no support from history, linguistics, or the aim of inclusive language.

Already in 1894, the famed grammarian and linguist Otto Jespersen (who was decidedly not a feminist himself) wrote in his book Progress in Language: With Special Reference to English (§24) that "it is at times a great inconvenience to be obliged to specify the sex of the person spoken about. [...] if a personal pronoun of common gender was substituted for he in such a proposition as this: `It would be interesting if each of the leading poets would tell us what he considers his best work', ladies would be spared the disparaging implication that the leading poets were all men." (so that it can hardly be claimed that a concern about such matters is only a recent outgrowth of 1970's feminism or so-called "PC" ideology).

Where singular "their" cannot be used is when referring to a strongly-individualized single person about whom there is some specific information. So the following attempt at pronominal reference would fail, even if one did not know (or did not wish to reveal) the sex of "Chris": "Chris was born on February, 25th 1963, the youngest of three siblings, is 5 feet 9 inches tall with red hair, graduated from Slippery Rock college, is currently working as an accountant, has never married, and is fond of listening to jazz. They..." (This shows that singular "they"/"them"/"their" cannot be used in all cases of unknown or indefinite gender.)

These semantic factors are gradient, which is why some speakers find "their" etc. which refers back to an indefinite pronoun such as "anybody" more acceptable than cases of "their" etc. referring back to a singular concrete noun. So in the great majority of cases in Jane Austen's writings, singular "their" has indefinite pronouns or quantifier words as its antecedent; there are also a few cases of "a person", "any young person", and "any man" as the antecedent, but no cases of a more specific noun phrase as the antecedent (except perhaps one case of "any acquaintance" embedded in a parallel coordinate construction). (It is significant that in one of the two cases I have found of the generic masculine construction in Jane Austen the antecedent is "the reader", with a definite article and a concrete noun.)
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Will English Lose its Inflections?
In his article “How Global Success is Changing English Forever,” Michael Erard cites the arguments of Albert Marckwardt as proof that inflections will disappear from English. Erard writes that 50 years ago, Albert Marckwardt, a linguist at the University of Michigan, predicted that, based on the historical changes to the English language, inflections would disappear. As Erard writes,

[Marckwardt’s] main prediction was that more and more English words would lose their inflections, in keeping with long-term trends. Old English had a rich system of inflections for conjugating verbs (for example sing, sang, sung) and marking nouns with inflections to indicate such things as possessive, indirect objects or the objects of a preposition. Then, about 900 years ago, the system began to collapse, mainly because words borrowed from Latin, French and Norse had stress on their first syllables, which de-emphasized the final syllables where the inflections were. Norse speakers also introduced new endings. English began its life as a language like Latin, where word order mattered little because inflections kept meaning and syntax straight, but ever since 1066 it has been on a slow path to becoming a language like Chinese, where word order is fixed because the language has no inflections at all.

Though Marckwardt seems to think that the trend will continue, he admits that “the fate of the few remaining inflections (including the plural -s, the possessive -'s, the past tense -ed and -ing on verbs) is up in the air” still. He continues to explain, writing that

Some [inflections] show signs of changing. Words like "messier" and "messiest" are giving way to "more..." and "most messy", while the possessive is being replaced by phrases with "of". English speakers used to be able to say "our's one"; now we say "one of ours." The verbal inflections (-ed and -ing, among others) seem more stable. Geoff Pullum, a linguist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, agrees: "I really think these won't drop, not in hundreds of years."

As George Phillip Krapp writes in his Modern English, though the Modern English period is often called “the period of lost inflections,” these inflections remain—and for a very good reason: “nevertheless, the language still remains an inflectional language, and for the expression of certain ideas no other means than inflection has been devised.” As a result, he doubts that inflection will disappear entirely.

For Further Reference:
How global success is changing English forever
Where Have All the Inflections Gone?
Modern English by George Krapp


Ebonics began as a name for the language of the African people living in North America. The term is derived from the words "ebony"and "phonics". It is also referred to as Black English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE). There are two main theories about when ebonics first appeared as a spoken language.

Theory #1: Dialectal Hypothesis: This theory argues that ebonics was created due to a geographical and social separation of African Americans in the United States. Because of this separation, a new dialect of the English language was formed in their communities. It is important to note, however, that ebonics is not spoken solely by African Americans, but does appear largely in communities with high numbers of African Americans.

Theory #2: Creole Hypothesis: This theory argues that the advent of ebonics as a language dates back to the slave trade in the 16th-19th centuries. When Africans were captured and forced onto slave ships, tribes were not kept together. Because of this, there were many different tribes represented on the ships. Each of these tribes spoke different languages, forcing a new form of communication to arise. This created a pidgin language to develop. A creole language then developed as the language became more refined.

It is quite difficult to trace the exact origins of Ebonics since it is almost entirely oral. There is little to no written history of the language, so no one is exactly sure when or where it definitely originated.

After 1996, the term "Ebonics" signified African American Vernacular English (AAVE) which was distinct from the standardized vernacular of the English language. Its adoption by the Oakland School Board during that year is what propelled the concept into the public spotlight and raised controversy over its legitimacy and composition.
Board members argued that by using ebonics in the classroom, students' academic performances would improve. Many of the struggling students used ebonics as their primary language, and therefore, by using it in the classroom, it would hopefully help them improve. There was controversy over whether or not Ebonics was a legitimate language that should be acknowledged in the classroom.

The creation of the term, "Ebonics" was credited to Robert Williams and Ernie Smith in 1973 who discussed the topic first at a conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Written acknowledgment and usage of the term came later in Williams' book, Ebonics: The True Language of Black Folks.

The debate over the legitimacy of Ebonics stems from multiple points of contention amongst linguists, sociologists, and academic instructors. Some critics have argued that Ebonics is simply an attempt to legitimize black “slang” by claiming it is instead an entirely distinct language of its own. Others have argued that to classify African Americans’ intellectual capacities strictly by their heritage and skin color is not only a stereotype of sorts but rather a form of reverse discrimination. Many teachers in the nation argue that “Ebonics” is an escape route for educators having to teach students proper English, and exalted incorrect grammatical practices in place of a structured and universal system of language.
In contrast, other teachers and academicians have found reasons to praise the development and proliferation of Ebonics as a way to acknowledge the influence of dialect and culturally distinct forms of speech that are prevalent among, for example, African Americans. Focusing on the cognitive development of the African American child, some have argued that Ebonics reflects a language more intimately known by the African American community.

In the 1970s, researchers developed what they called a "Bridge" reading program. First, children would read texts written in their own vernacular (AAVE), then they would read texts written half in their vernacular and half in standard English, and finally it switched to texts only in standard English.
To motivate students, stories were introduced by voice recordings of a young man speaking in AAVE:
"What's happenin', brothers and sisters? I want to tell you about this here program called 'Bridge,' a cross-cultural reading program. Now I know what you thinkin'. This is just another one of them jive reading programs, and that I won't be needin' no readin' program. But dig it. This here reading program is really kinda different. It was done by a brother and two sisters, soul folk, you know..."

Children from grades 7 to 12 were tested after 4 months and compared to a group who had not done the program. Reading scores of the Bridge program students increased an average of 6.2 months, and the children in standard school only increased by 1.6 months.

This program eventually ended because of controversy surrounding it and not because it statistically didn't work. One of many questionable parts of the Oakland School Board case was that it called Ebonics "genetically based and not a dialect of English," and an actual separate language that needed to be translated. The controversy redirected the focus away from the fact that a program utilizing a child's own vernacular spoken at home to introduce texts in standard English could be successful.

For Further Reading: NYTimes Article
Duke Article

Appalachian English as Elizabethan English
There seems to be quite a bit of contention among scholars as to whether current Appalachian English mirrors Elizabethan English.

In his 1969 article in West Virginia History, Waylene Dial defends the Appalachian dialect, arguing that, “instead of being called corrupt ought to be classified as archaic.” He continues to explain that, “Southern mountain dialect…is certainly archaic, but the general historical period it represents can be narrowed down to the days of the first Queen Elizabeth, and can be further particularized by saying that what is heard today is actually a sort of Scottish-flavored Elizabethan English.” Thus, as other critics argue, Dial believes that the influence of Scottish immigrants caused this archaic language to survive. Dial cites as evidence baffling expressions and the use of archaic meanings for words, such as clever, blink, ill, foreigner, and allow; further evidence, he claims, exists in archaic pronunciation, especially the substitution of an i sound for an e sound. Dial submits the following substitutions as proof: deef for deaf, heered for heard, afeared for afraid, cowcumber for cucumber, bammy for balmy, holp for helped. Dial closes his article by arguing that, “in some ways this vintage English reflects the outlook and spirit of the people who speak it…and, we find that not only is the language Elizabethan, but that some of the ways these people look at things are Elizabethan too.”

Aside from the theory that the Elizabethan dialect had been preserved due to the region’s isolation and due to Scottish immigration, “recent research suggests that Appalachian English developed as a uniquely American dialect as early settlers re-adapted the English language to their unfamiliar frontier environment.” Critics argue that, “this is supported by numerous similarities between the Appalachian dialect and Colonial American English.” Additionally, one theory of the language's survival is that Appalachian settlers from Scotland, England, and Germany were so isolated from the rest of their Southern settling countrymen, that their language remained untouched. The mountains walled them in and separated those settlers from the rest of the changing and developing country.

Whether or not scholars can agree on a reason for these similarities, most scholars admit that, “While Appalachian English is not a perfectly preserved remnant of Shakespearean language, it does preserve many forms which have been lost in Standard English.”

For Further Reference:
West Virginia Division of Culture and History
Appalachian English in Wikipedia
Appalachian English Project, Georgetown University

Spanglish in America: Vamos a Have un Debate!

As with AAVE, Spanglish incites passionate debate from those who feel that it is simply a degraded version of two languages, blended together for laziness or simplicity's sake. Some feel that recognizing Spanglish as a creolized dialect of English can assist in communication with bilingual students. As language scholars, we cannot place a value judgment on a language or dialect; it simply must be accepted as something alive and relevant. Spanglish is formed in three basic ways: a language borrows words from another language, speakers switch from one language to the other (often spontaneously), or speakers mix the grammar of one language with another. According to Peter Sayer, this happens and is exemplified in the following ways:

"1. Loan words particular to Spanglish: Loan words are lexical items (single words or idiomatic expressions) that are phonologically integrated. For example,troca for truck, instead of camioneta. This category excludes words like guerrilla (SpanishEnglish) and líder (EnglishSpanish) because they are now seen as standard. Borrowed verbs carry the borrowing language’s inflections (e.g., wachear [to watch] and parquear [to park]).

2. Calques: Calques are sometimes called “linguistic interference.” The syntactic structure of one language is mapped onto the other. For example, the mother of her father, instead of her father’s mother, from the way the syntax of la mamá de su papá is arranged in Spanish. Generally calques are seen either as performance errors (in the Chomskyan sense) or as evidence of a second language L2 user’s interlanguage—his or her emergent linguistic
system. Some calques, however, also get standardized, as may be the case with VERB + pa’atrás.

3. Code-switching: Switches can be of a single word or lexical item, they can be tags, or they can be made between utterances (intersentential) or at an intermediate point (intrasentential). Often one code is the base language, and a word or phrase is inserted (distinguished from a borrowing because the word is not phonologically integrated). There are different types of code-switching reflecting the speaker’s motivations for using the switch (e.g., to add nuance or signal voice)."

On a larger scale, this issue presents the principles of descriptivism vs. prescriptivism, language prejudices, and the ever-evolving nature of not just English but all languages. Here is an example of a creole/dialect that formed by necessity and perhaps to a lesser degree than AAVE, follows its own set of rules and conventions.

Sayer's Article on ERIC

"English Only" in America

The federal government does not specify English as the United States' official language, but the following states do: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. English AND Hawaiian are the official languages of Hawaii, and English AND French are the official languages of Louisiana. There are English Plus resolutions in New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington; English Plus originated from a letter to the Secretary of Education in 1985 from the Spanish American League Against Discrimination which read " . . . [America] has lost sight of the fact that English is a key to equal educational opportunity, necessary but not sufficient. English by itself is not enough. Not English Only, English Plus! . . . We won't accept English Only for our children. We want English plus. English plus math. Plus science. Plus social studies. Plus equal educational opportunities. English plus competence in the home language. . . English Plus for everyone!" English Plus is a reaction to the English Only movement in that it wants to promote a great acceptance of language diversity in the country in which we live. In turn, English Plus will encourage cultural development and international perspective.
Pros & Proponents -
The committee for Nashville Councilman Eric Crafton made a statement on behalf of his stance on English Only in Nashville: "It's about keeping Nashville united, not divided by language and encouraging immigrants to learn English and pursue the American dream. And, yes it's also about keeping costs and taxes low by not making city agencies operate in multiple languages."
Theodore Roosevelt and his 1919 letter to the American Defense Society ended with, "we have room but for one language here, and that is the English language . . ."
Cons & Criticisms -
The Linguistic Society of America rejects the English Plus movement. In 1986-87, the society passed a resulotion which stated, "English only measures on the grounds that they are based on misconceptions about the role of a common language in establishing political unity, and that they are inconsistent with basic American traditions of linguistic tolerance." Linguist Geoffrey Pullum wrote an essay with regard to English Plus entitled "Here Comes the Linguistic Facists," in which he states that English is far from under threat in America and that declaring English as the official language of the United States is like "making hotdogs the official food at baseball games."
The Americal Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is critical of the English Only movement/English Only laws because it defies the 1st Amendment.

For further information:

The Like Phenomenon
Many of us are familiar with the famous Valley Girl expression. We have all heard sentences such as, “And I was like hey, stop it .” The original like expression comes from the Middle English adjective meaning similar. The verb itself has even longer roots in the Norse language and simply meant that’s pleasing to me.
But, like is not only used as a filler by young people, but as noun, verb, adverb , preposition, particle, conjunction, hedge, interjection, and quotative. It is for this reason that there is some debate that it might very well become a part of Standard English.

Like Classifications

I have many likes.

I like pizza or I like John. (having a romantic connotation)

I like hate him.

Her eyes are like diamonds.

She is just like him.

Participle Conjunction
He looks like he wants to fight.

I have like 50 pairs of shoes.

I have like, nothing to say.


I was like, “Hey, stop it .”

The Influence of Technology

As the ubiquity of technology has increased over the past couple of decades, so has the research and theories over how technology has modified language and communication. Linguists have focused on topics as far ranging as the addition of words and alternate definitions into the English lexicon (such as mouse, Internet, or website) and the effect technology and the internet has on actual communication. One of the hot button topics is the effect texting has on language and communication.

Texting is a reference to text messaging, or sending relatively short typed messages from a cellular phone or computer to a specific recipient or group of recipients. Part of the controversy with texting is the manner in which young users modify their writing into a more text-friendly language similar to old fashion telegrams with short, punchy lines. Typically, younger users utilize a type of recognized shorthand to communicate information without having to type an excess of characters on a difficult to use telephone keypad. So, "great" may become "gr8" and "talk to you later" changes to "TTYL". Some researchers have shown that older users of text messaging tend to use less shorthand references and write as if they were composing an email or other more formally constructed document. Problems arise, however, when students have difficulty writing in standard English when necessary and more appropriate.

Though many linguists and educators worry that texting will cause a simplification of the English language and a drop in academic performance in students, the evidence does not seem to support this concern. In the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, researchers conducted a study to see texting's effects on academic performance. The researchers found that, "as anticipated, at this stage of development there is no evidence of a detrimental effect of textisms exposure on conventional spelling." The researchers also noted that children who grew up with texting seemed to be better able to differentiate between appropriate times for abbreviating (a text message or email) and a time for refined grammar (an essay for school). In addition, sociolinguist Becky Childs from Coastal Carolina University agrees that texting is not going to cause the downfall of the English language. She notes, "We once spoke British English when we came to the U.S. We're reinventing ourselves, so I think it's always happening." She feels that this is just another stage in the development of the English language and not something that should cause unnecessary alarm.

For More Information

For additional information about text lingo, please refer to this text message shorthand and acronym guide .