How can we encourage lanquage change (in the English language)?
Currently studying the ORIGINS of English. This question was brought up in a discussion, and I was not satisfied with the answer.
1 Answer | Add Yours
A language must be looked at as a changing and growing communication code, a flexible and subtle tool for the exchange of ideas and information. It is not a set of rules imposed by some authority. Those who have assembled grammars and dictionaries were merely summarizing and systematizing what the code had developed into up until then. The OED, for example, was a collection of how words to date had been used. When we learn grammar “rules” we are simply learning to interpret and use the code so far. When new thought, ideas, facts, etc. have to be communicated, we often must combine the language differently from how it has been used so far. We have to, for example, remove indiscriminate gender pronoun use by invent such terms as he/she, her/him, “them” as a singular pronoun to avoid gender pronouns--even neologisms such as “sher” (which didn’t catch on); in music and dance, we had to invent new terms such as “rap”, “hiphop”, etc., to refer to new types. Because society as a whole is conservative (resisting change), there is a tendency to balk against changes in language (calling new combinations “bad” or “lower-class” grammar), but gradually so-called “grammatically incorrect” constructions become so commonplace that they go unnoticed (“between” instead of “among,” or “who” instead of “whom” in prepositional phrases, are examples—even the evening news anchors are “guilty” of these “errors.”) Teachers encourage changing grammar and vocabulary tendencies by circling them in formal essays, but adding the margin note “informal usage” or some such, but not marking them “wrong.” In creative work we should encourage intentional non-standard use if, in your opinion, it enhances the spirit of the communication. Good English teachers often build a list of phrases, vocabulary, and grammar alternatives to keep track of the changes in the language they teach (brief additional note: so-called “English classes” are actually classes in learning how to think clearly and express successfully.)
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes