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Tim Roufs

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Wednesday, 23-Jul-2014 01:21:14 GMT
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Diachronic (Historical) Linguistics

the study of change in language

“How did language get that way ?

“How does language change ?

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linguistics index page

In the News . . .

  • the study of language across time

  • the study of language change using formal methods that compare shifts over time and across space in formal aspects of language such as phonetics, grammar, and semantics

  • meanings change*

    • narrowing -- the meaning of a form becomes more restricted in scope
      • meat from Old English mete (food)
      • deer from Old English dëor (beast)
      • garage from a French word denoting any storage place

    • widening -- the meaning is enlarged
      • barn from Old English bern (a storage place for barley)
      • brand names
        • victrola
        • frigidaire
        • xerox

    • degeneration -- a form takes an unfavorable meaning, or one which is improper or obscene
      • knave from Old English cnafa ("boy, servant")
      • madam (keeper of brothel) from honorific madam

    • elevation -- the meaning of a form rises in the social scale, losing an earlier significance
      • knight from Old English cniht (servant, young disciple")
      • marshal from an older French word meaning "a caretaker of horses (mares)"

    • metaphor -- an earlier metaphorical or marginal meaning becomes nuclear
      • pen from Latin penna (feather)

  • factors making for semantic change are largely undetermined

linguistics index page

*After E.A. Hoebel, Anthroplogy: The Study of Man, 4th ed. (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1972.)


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