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Language Change Essay

The English language has been altering since the ‘Old English’ period, which is thought to be set around the
years 450-1100, and it hasn’t stopped since, with a great number of phonological, lexical and semantic
change through development and expansion in both written and spoken English. These changes are feared
by some and embraced by others, either way, language will continue to develop through new generations,
whether it’s viewed as improvements or setbacks.

English language’s phonological development over the past centuries has been a large contribution to
overall progression of the language. Many sounds dropped, added and altered within the spoken language
we use today were shaped hundreds of years ago, for example the elision of the word-initial voiceless
glottal fricative ‘h’ sound in a great number of words such as white, whale and wait. Another example of
the evolution of English phonology is the insertion of the dental fricative ‘’ (th) in the word fifth, which in
the Old English period used to be pronounced ff, or the assimilation of the monophthong ‘u’ in mouse
being changed to the diphthong ‘a’, making the word pronounced ‘mas’ instead of ‘mus’. These are just
a few of many examples of English language’s phonological movement from the earlier years of it. A more
recent change though would be the insertion of the monophthong ‘ə’ in library, making it ‘labrəri’ instead
of ‘labri’.

Thousands of neologisms have been added to the lexical sub-system of English language. This is due to
words being made for technological advancements, and new discoveries or ideas. Words can be formed
and/or created in many ways, some processes and reasons for this could be commonization, which
involves names being made for brands, places or baby names, such as google, Melbourne, Bing, Yahoo, or
words could be made from compounding, which is the process involves the combination of multiple free
morphemes and is used to join different meanings of words into one to create a new word, examples being
keyboard, seagull, earthworm.
These are all necessary for the livelihood of the language because of the ever-growing world and new
tangible and abstract entities or concepts. Though some more recent words being made are generally
done so through shortening them or making acronyms generally for ease of speech in e-language, but
people, usually youth, are known to bring these newly formed words into spoken language, such as saying
‘lol’, ‘Aussy’, ‘g’day’ and many more.

Over several centuries the semantics of words and phrases have evolved greatly. The changes made have
been categorised into numerous classifications, some of which being broadening, narrowing and shift.
Broadening refers to the generalization of words, such as the word ‘hot’ referring to a state of warmth and
also can be used to describe someone’s appearance.
Narrowing is the opposite effect of broadening, it refers to the under generalization of words, such as
when the word apple used to mean fruit.
Shift refers to the complete change of a words meaning, such as the word silly, which used to mean happy,
blissful, lucky or blessed, and now means ridiculous.

The topic of language change has many people divided with the question ‘should we fear or embrace it?’.
But language is always changing and evolving, whether it be phonological, lexical and semantic it will only
stop when the language dies and people stop speaking it. No one should tell people to embrace it or fear
it, it’s simply something we’re going to have to live through if we wish to communicate in English.