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Are the recent changes in the English language considered to be internal or external...

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gamefaceguy | (Level 1) Honors

Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:06 PM via web

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Are the recent changes in the English language considered to be internal or external changes? 

This question has to do with the fact that many changes have taken place in our language, particularly with the boom in technology advancement.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 15, 2012 at 3:31 PM (Answer #1)

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When we think of internal and external changes to a language, I would define internal changes as those that arise organically within the language itself, for example, the trend to eliminate the serial or Oxford comma or terms and descriptions that arise as the result of activities of the people who speak that language, while external changes are those that arise as the result to exposure to other languages, for example, the trend to greet people with "hola," which is, of course, a Spanish word for hello, soon perhaps to be a part of ordinary English for many people.  

With regard to technological advancement, I would have to say that many changes in English are internal because many technological advances have been created by speakers of English.  The terms we use to describe the various systems and objects of technology in recent years have come into the language frequently via speakers of English.  Even the metaphors we use in conjunction with new technology have arisen internally. For example, we get "viruses" and have a digital "desktop" on our computers. 

To the degree that we have changes in English as a result of the technological advances of speakers of other languages, those would be considered external changes.  One example that comes to mind is mathematical, rather than technological.  The word "algebra" is, I believe, an Arabic word that entered English because algebra was "invented" in an Arabic culture. 

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