What English Will Sound Like In 100 Years

An online article by Michael Erard discusses the possible phonetic changes that English might go through in the coming decades and centuries. The best part of the article are three sound files of the opening lines of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, read in Old English, in modern Received Pronunciation, and in what English might sound like in a century’s time.

The article provides a good summary of the influences on English pronunciation and what kind of sound changes we might expect. But take any predictions, including the one in the audio file, with a grain of salt. While we know that English pronunciation will change, and we know what phonemes are more likely or less likely to change, we really have no clue what will actually change.

The other thing to consider is it is almost certain that there will be no single pronunciation for English. There will be hundreds of different varieties of English. English may not go the way of Latin and split into multiple, distinct dialects (i.e., French, Spanish, Italian, etc.), but even if it remains a global, mutually intelligible language, there will be considerable variation, just like there is today. There will be no single pronunciation of English in centuries time.

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Debunked: Students Can’t Write Anymore

I’m teaching four sections of first-year English composition this semester, so this subject is near and dear to my heart. Two Stanford researchers, Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford, have conducted a longitudinal study of college freshman writing, comparing the results from students in 2006 with earlier studies from 1917, 1930, and 1986, and the results are quite surprising.

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950 Years Ago On This Date…

Her forðferde Eaduuard king, ך Harold eorl feng to ðam rice ך heold hit XL wucena ך ænne dæg, ך her com Willelm ך gewann Ængla land.

—The Parker Chronicle (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS. 173)

(In this year King Edward died, and the nobleman Harold succeeded to the kingdom and held it forty weeks and a day, and in this year William came and conquered England.)

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The Laureation of Bob Dylan

A colleague of mine from the University of Toronto, Chet Scoville, has written an excellent piece on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. I want to expand on what he says.

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Chomsky Rebutted

Paul Ibbotson and Michael Tomasello have penned a rather thorough take down of Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar in Scientific American. While highly critical, it’s also one of the clearest explanations of Chomsky’s work that I’ve seen.

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