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vocabulary connected to war: gas mask, tank, kamikaze, superpower, the bomb;

­ vocabulary connected to the media: hi­fi, transistor radio, videotape;

­ vocabulary connected to dances and music: Charleston, the twist, Merseybeat;

­ vocabulary connected to environment: green, global warming, greenhouse gasses;

­ vocabulary of political correctness: chairperson, herstory;

­ vocabulary connected to money and to investments: dawn raid, white knight;

­ vocabulary connected to lifestyle: yuppie, dinky.


It is very surprising to see that some words that we consider recent, were instead invented during the 20s; for


appeasement: this term was used during the period of the Second World War which meant trying to

­ keep peace with Germany; this term was invented during the 30s;

greenhouse effect: this term was coined in the 20s, but it became very popular during the 80s;

­ atomic bomb: this term was invented 1914, when the bomb itself didn’t exist yet.


Another example is the one of the so­called “four­letter words” (the bad words of a language) which no

dictionary would print at the beginning.

Between 1890 and 1904 a particular dictionary was published: it was called “ Slang and its Analogues” and it

was the dictionary of slang. It appears to have been the great melting pot of World War I, bringing together

people of all classes and backgrounds, that encouraged the spread of such words.

Than the “Penguin English Dictionary” was published, which was the first general English dictionary to include

words such as “fuck”.

The Oxford English Dictionary accepted these words in 1972.

This fact represents a big revolution in society, which shows how the mentality has changed and people have

become more open­minded.

On the other hand, there are some words which once went unremarked, but which today aren’t used because

they are considered bad words: for example “fat”, which has become an offensive words, just like “nigger”.


There are five was in which English has expanded its vocabulary in the 20 century by creating neologisms:

this is the commonest way of creating new

by combining existing words or word­parts:

­ words (such as dirty dancing, beatnick); a particular kind of combining already existing words is called

blending, which is the fusion of two different words into one (for example: motel, which is motor+hotel,

smog, which is smoke+fog); Lewis Carroll called this blend’s name “portmanteau words”;

this is the most effort­free and the easiest way to

by putting existing words to new use:

­ expand the vocabulary of a language. The percentage of such modifications among the total of

neologisms are between 10 and 15, which is a significant proportion. A particular new use of already

existing words is the so­called conversion, which is the phenomenon which occurs when the word­

class of a word changes (for example “bottle” which originates the verb “to bottle”);

in order to shorten an already existing word, the most common

by shortening existing words:

­ way is to knock off the end (for example “porn” from “pornography”); a particular kind of this process is

called back­formation, which is the process of deleting a suffix ad altering the word­class (for example

“destruct” from “destruction”).

Another kind of shortening is called initialism, which consists in shortening a word and leaving only its

first letter and this letters are pronounced separately (for example BSE); when the resulting string of

letters is pronounced as if it were an ordinary word, we speak about acronyms (such as “AIDS”);

this process has provided approximately 5%

by borrowing words form another language:

­ TH

of new word in English language in the 20 century (such as “balti”, “ciabatta”, “pizza”, “quiche”,

“führer”); creating new words out of nothing provides less than 1% of

by coining words out of nothing:

­ English neologisms (for example “nylon”, “spam”, “quark”.

CAP. 5 English: a living language

English is a in fact it is constantly changing in order to adapt to an ever­changing world

living language,

which requires new and varied means of communication.

There are always people who complain about this change because they would like to come back to the English

language of the past: they say that we must expect the English language to continue to deteriorate until it

exists in a form no longer recognisable and comprehensible.

Other experts say that this fact of changing shows the flexibility and vitality of the language: new words reflect

new experiences, more liberal attitudes and a greater understanding of the world.

The language changes, developing to meet the needs of people and it is therefore the reflection of the society

we live in.

Linguists who study the ways in which English has developed from its early form (Old English) to its current

form (Late English) use the so­called linguists who analyse a clearly defined

diachronic approach;

period in order to identify characteristic features of English at a particular time use the so­called synchronic


Lexis, syntax and semantics are constantly changing, from person to person, from place to place.

The factors which cause these changes are:

historical factors : wars, invasions, industrial and technological changes have brought to the creation of

­ new words;

cultural factors : language is usually adapted and altered to satisfy the personal requirements of a

­ generation; a specific language gives also the generation the sense of identity;

social factors : education, social class, age, gender, ethnic background, occupation and personal

­ identity will influence the words and grammar that individual speakers use;

geographical factors : the pronunciation of words (accent) and the kinds of words and grammatical

­ structures used (dialect) will vary and change according to the region a speaker comes from;

the use of different registers : grammatical structures will vary according to use; different fields will each

­ have distinctive characteristic features;

the development of English as a world language .


Social changes

Society attributes certain codes of behaviour in boys and girls from a young age: men are seen as logical,

rational and objective, while women are seen as emotional, intuitive and subjective.

Often words associated to men have a positive connotation (es. manly, sporty), while words associated to

women have a negative connotation (es. emotional, erratic).

It implies differences between women and men based on gender rather than on individual personality.

But in an age of this kind of divisive language is often seen as unacceptable and

political correctness,

people are trying to find some terms to substitute sexist ones (such as “chairperson” instead of “chairman”).

Some people complain also about the order of words in expressions like “men and women”, “husband and

wife” or “Mr and Mrs”, which highlight the predominance of men.

It is by however clear that men and women talk differently, according to:

level of discourse: women are more likely to initiate conversations, while men don’t want to; men are

­ more likely to interrupt; men are more likely to use familiar terms, while women will use more formal


grammatical structures: women use question tags more frequently than men; men are more likely to

­ use commands, while women tend to use forms like “Would you mind…?” or “I wonder if you…”;

lexical choices: women are more likely to use adjectives live “wonderful”, “brilliant” or adverbs like “so”

­ and “very”; men are more likely to use slang and to swear than women;

phonology: women are more likely to adjust their accent to match other participants in a formal

­ speech.

Cultural changes – Black American English

When we talk about Black American English, we are referring to the variety of American English which is used

by lower class Blacks in urban communities. th th th

Black English in America is linked to the slave trade in the 17 , 18 and 19 century, when Africans were taken

from their native lands to American plantations.

The slaves used a language made up of English and West African linguistic features: the vocabulary was

dominated by English words and the grammatical structures were simplified.

The result was the birth of a so­called a marginal language created by people who need

pidgin language,

to communicate but have no common language.

This kind of language is characterised by a simplified grammar and small vocabulary; it derives from the fusion

of different languages.

When a pidgin language becomes a main language, it is called or and

expanded pidgin lingua franca

it has to become more complex.

When the later generations learn it as their first language, the lingua franca becomes a the


vocabulary of the lingua franca has to be expended and the grammatical structures have to be able to

communicate more complicated meanings.

There are two type of creole Englishes: Atlantic creole and Pacific creole.

They are characterised by:

grammatical structures: the absence of plural forms; nouns can be marked for gender by adding “man”

­ for men and “mari” for women; multiple negative are common;

lexical patterns: reduplication of words is used to extend a limited vocabulary.


In America, the pidgin English talked in the plantations became a creole: it was used in every­day

communication and it became the language of resistance against the Whites.

Creole language have no educational status, little social prestige and are usually spoken by people in the

poorer social classes.

The process in which creoles are modified and made standard languages is called decreolization.

We can’t consider Black English a creole, but its sources is in the pidgin and creole languages. We can call it

an which is used as a language of protest and it also creates group identity.


If we analyse Black American English, it differs from the Standard English because of:

grammatical variations: the linking verb “to be” is often omitted (es. “he good”); the base form “to be” is

­ used as an auxiliary to express habitual actions in the progressive aspect (es. “she be thinking”);verbs

in the present tense third person singular aren’t inflected with –s (es. “she eat”); plural nouns are


pronunciations: some sound aren’t often pronounced.


International changes – English as a world language

English has become a word language, spoken worldwide.

There are various criteria a language must have to become a world language:

the number of first­language speakers must be high;

­ it has to be spread over a wide geographical area;

­ political and economic affairs must be stable: this means that the language must be spoken by a

­ nation which is an economic and political power.

Inevitably, the language changes as it comes into contact with new geographical and cultural environments.

The worldwide status of English is also linked to the growth of the British Empire and the colonisation of places

like India and South Africa. From this moment the role of English as a world language has continued to grow.

This particular form of the language has no geographical markers and has been described as standard

used by international organisations, by pilots and air traffic controllers and by

international English,

international traders.

This standard English has then been influenced and changed in every land and so we have the birth of

different varieties, such has Australian English, American English, Japanese English, Indian English.

In France, there are some purists who try to defend their native language from the arrival of terms from other

languages: they want to preserve the real French (Académie Française).

CAP. 6 Language variation: regional and social

1. Regional and social variation

Not only does the language change over time, but it has also different forms that exist at the same time: these

different forms of a language are caused by the fact that each of us speaks in a particular way and it is also

due to the fact that language changes in time and space, according to social, regional and cultural


Language is in fact constantly changing, not only from region to region and from social group to social group,

but also from person to person: grammatical structures and pronunciations of each individual may be different,

depending on the goal of the communication, the audience and the context.

So linguists have also to consider these are the different features by

idiosyncratic linguistic features:

each member of the speech community which make the language personally distinctive.

The use of the language is also influenced by many factors, such as and

age, gender, occupation

while older speakers tend to use traditional forms of language, younger

education background:

speakers are more influenced by current trends; women for example use more standard forms and a standard

pronunciation than men.

So, having noticed how personal identity, social, cultural and educational background affect the use of

language, linguists analyse the changes in English that these variants cause: by using Standard English and

Received Pronunciation as norms, they can discuss variations in lexis, grammar and pronunciation.


In the 19 century, the expression “Standard English” was used to describe a form of English that was

“common” or “universal” because it was a recognised system of writing.

During the 1930s, this kind of English was associated with social class and was seen as the language of

educated people.

In the 1933, the Oxford English Dictionary defined it as a form of speech with cultural and social status which

many users considered to be the best form: this definition implied that all other varieties were substandard and

also that the people who spoke these substandard varieties were inferior. This is why most modern linguists try

to avoid the political and class associations of Standard English (they use it only as a benchmark –punto di


During the 1980s and 1990s, the Conservative government has focused attention on the nature of “correct”

English and on what should be taught in schools: people thought it wasn’t a good idea to avoid non­standard

varieties, also for social reasons.

In 1993 the government revised this law and established that all children should be taught to use Standard

English. In 1994 it was established that when used in right contexts, non­standard version of spoken and

written language are seen to be beneficial since they demonstrate to school pupils the richness of English the

government recognised that there were many kinds of English which can be acceptable.

But inevitably, social judgements will be made on the way in which people speak and write: a knowledge of

Standard English is crucial, because it is language of the media, of education, of the law courts and the

Church and in some cases it is necessary to be able to use universally recognised form of English.

It is very important that an education system makes students aware of the different varieties of English and of

the importance of audience, purpose and context: people have to make conscious decisions about the

appropriate kind of language for a particular situation.

2. Accent refers only to pronunciation that indicates where a person is from, geographically (we talk about

Accent accent) and socially (we talk about

regional social accent).

Speakers of Received Pronunciation are often described as having no accent, but in the field of linguistics,

everyone has some kind of accent.

Received Pronunciation is therefore just one of many English accents, despite the fact that it is not linked to a

specific region. When pronunciation differs from Received Pronunciation, speakers are said to have a broad


When linguists analyse accents, they consider three keys areas: personal accent, social accent and regional


Personal Accent

Individual pronunciation changes may be linked to different contexts or moods, or to physical reasons like a

sore throat or a mouth full of food.

Moreover, it depends on the context: in a formal context, speakers will articulate sound more carefully, while in

an informal context, sounds will be pronounced quicker and the articulation will be less precise.

Some speaker are very aware of changing contexts and their accent may later significantly depending upon

the relationship between participants.

describes the process of accent change in which two speakers modify their accents in order


to become more similar. reflects instead an opposite movement in which accents become


further apart.

By the way, a personal accent will rarely impede understanding.

Social Accent

In order to define a social accents, linguists consider the “social” elements of an individual’s accent, aspects

like speaker’s class, educational background, occupation and gender.

Sometimes, speakers who are trying to emulate Received Pronunciation, often this


means that they tend to speak a very correct English, for example pronouncing all the “h”, also when it isn’t

necessary (hypercorrection).

Regional Accent

Linguists often divide the country into several broad areas, which are:

North ;

­ Midlands ;

­ East


­ South ;

­ South­West



Each imaginary line marked on a map to divide the country into areas defining different accents or dialects is

called an isogloss.

The main pronunciation differences which can be identified between Received Pronunciation and other English

accents are:

the phoneme /h/ : while RP pronounces the phoneme /h/ in the initial position, most regional dialects

­ do not (es. air – hair);

the phoneme /ŋ/

: in most all informal spoken discourse, accents other than RP will pronounce this

­ phoneme as /n/ in the final position (es. running);

consonant followed by /u:/ : in RP certain words beginning with a consonant followed by the pure vowel

­ /u:/ are pronounced with a /j/ (es. news);

the post­vocalic /r/ : the process of liaison described the way in which speakers insert a linking /r/

­ between words that end with a vowel sound and are followed by another word with a vowel in the initial

position (es. hair oil). All accents including RP pronounce the post­vocalic /r/ after a vowel, but RP

would only pronounce it at word boundaries;

the glottal stop : in RP the glottal stop is used on very few occasions, but in regional dialects it is

­ common, particularly amongst young people in urban areas. It frequently occurs as an allophone of /t/

in the medial and final position (es. water);

the phoneme /i:/ : in RP words ending with –y, ­ey, ­ee are pronounced with the phoneme /i/ (es.

­ honey);

vowel a : suc as bath, trance;

­ phoneme inventory : invented phonemes are phonemes that are or aren’t used; for example the

­ phonemes / / and / / both occur in RP, while in any regional dialects only / / is used (es. took).


3. Dialect

A is a subdivision of a language which is identified by variations in lexis and grammar.


As we have seen, English is characterised by different regional accents and dialects.

This regional variation can also be seen in the differences between town and country. In rural areas, non­

standard dialects are often stronger because the arrival of newcomers who use different dialects is less

common. Urban areas, on the other hand, are far more likely to contain a linguistic mix. When people move

round the country for employment , they introduce new dialects into the local speech community.

Equally age can affect the kind of dialect used: the broadest non­standard dialects tend to be spoken by older

members of a community; younger people will use a dialect form which is modified in the direction of Standard


Some linguists believe that non­standard dialects are dying and this is particularly true of urban areas.

As urban centres grow and as educational and occupational opportunities offer more people the chance to

move between social classes, non­standard dialects can be defined on a social rather than regional basis. The

use of particular words and grammatical structure can be linked directly to specific social groups or classes.

This kind of differentiation in use is clearly linked to educational and occupational background: the longer

people stay in formal education, the more likely they are to use Standard English.

Although non­standard dialects are most commonly associated with spoken language, non­standard usage of

words and grammatical structures can also be seen in written work. Most people will use Standard English


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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze linguistiche (BRESCIA - MILANO)

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher glibertino di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Linguistica inglese e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Milano Unicatt o del prof Camaiora Luisa.

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Altri appunti di Linguistica inglese

Riassunto esame Linguistica Inglese, prof. Camaiora, libro consigliato The Frameworks of english, Ballard
Riassunto esame Linguistica inglese, prof. Camaiora, libro consigliato libro A handbook of present day English, Pulcini
Riassunto esame Linguistica inglese, prof. Camaiora, libro consigliato Aspects of discourse and genre, Ulrych
Appunti per Linguistica inglese, prof Ulrych, libro consigliato A Handbook of present-day English