Myths of Language Change, Part 2: That’s Not What It Really Means

The changing face of our language has created an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, people recognize and delight in the language change of the past. But on the other hand, people routinely resist current changes in the language. The language they learn as children is, for many, the only acceptable manner of speaking. Change is vehemently eschewed.

How people can revel in the changes of the past yet fiercely resist the changes of the present is just bizarre. And it is futile. The language will change whether we like it or not, and no amount of resistance will stop a change whose time has come.

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Word of the Month: Usenet

Usenet, n., is a distributed bulletin board system. The term is an abbreviation for users’ network. Usenet was originally implemented in 1979-1980 to link computers at Duke University with those of the University of North Carolina. The system consisted of numerous discussion forums called newsgroups. Computers that functioned as newsservers would pass messages to one another. Usenet was originally conceived to carry local news and information, hence the names. By 1996, Usenet had over 10,000 newsgroups and an average of over 500 megabytes of information posted to it daily.

Usenet was not originally part of the Internet. Instead it was originally carried by the UUCPNET network of Unix computers. By the early 1990s, however, most of Usenet was being transferred over the Internet.

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Book Review: The Story of English (McCrum, et.al.) & The English Language (Barber)

Generally, we avoid reviewing older books in this space, but we make an exception this month. Over the past few years, several readers of the web site have asked about historical overviews of the English language. The essay A (Very) Brief History of the English Language on the wordorigins.org site is available, but this is simply a summary of major events and trends. Those who want a more detailed account have to look elsewhere. Here we take a look at two lengthy treatments of the topic.

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Myths of Language Change, Part 1: That’s Not A Real Word

The changing face of our language has created an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, people recognize and delight in the language change of the past. But on the other hand, people routinely resist current changes in the language. The language they learn as children is, for many, the only acceptable manner of speaking. Change is vehemently eschewed.

How people can revel in the changes of the past yet fiercely resist the changes of the present is just bizarre. And it is futile. The language will change whether we like it or not, and no amount of resistance will stop a change whose time has come.

Read the rest of the article...

American Dialect: Upper Midwest

Even if you have never been there, most of us are familiar with the accent of the Upper Midwest states from movies such as Fargo (1996) and Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Minnesota, and the Dakotas (a.k.a. Baja Manitoba) have some distinct features of pronunciation and vocabulary.

The patterns we examined last month also apply up here. The Northern Cities Shift is active in the region, but there are some other pronunciation changes that are unique to the Upper Midwest.

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