Old English and Standardisation

Topics: English language, Dialect, Linguistics Pages: 5 (1298 words) Published: April 6, 2011
Assignment 1

Question Part 1

Explain the meaning of the following terms, using examples from the U211 materials and any relevant examples of your own: Old English

Old English appeared in the 5th century, with the Anglo-Saxon invasions and their native Germanic tongue. At the time, the prevalent language was Latin, however, “Native Britons will have continued to speak Celtic at home but the increasing number of mixed marriages will have added to the number of families speaking Latin”, (Allason-Jones, 1989, in Graddol et al, 1996 p.40).

To confuse matters in language research further, the Vikings invaded, bringing an Old Norse influence upon an already evolving language. Interestingly, my surname of Jackson is Scandinavian (following the –son rule) and my place of birth, Darlington, is originally a Saxon settlement named Dearthington. A good example of the differences in inherited language.

Although there is proof of continuity of the spoken language into Modern English, texts did not adhere to specific rules or word order and inflections (suffixes of different sorts, which could have a number of different meanings) became an identifiable use to adapt words to grammatical context.

“The loss of inflections was a profound grammatical change which distinguishes Old English from modern English” (Graddol et al. 1996, p.60)

Standardisation occurred between the 15th and 19th century, its aim was to unify a nation through creating rules around written and spoken language with agreed terms of usage.

The four processes involved in standardisation, are the selection of which language will be used, (especially in a country where many tribal dialects may exist and everybody needs to be treated fairly to avoid conflict), then elaboration of grammatical structures and vocabulary within the language. Next would be codification which would reduce language variations and potential misinterpretation and increase communication levels, the language would need to be established for use with standard spelling and then finally it would need to be implemented by texts and encouragement of use.

Assignment 1

Question Part 2

‘It is difficult to draw definitive boundaries, according to linguistic criteria, around different varieties of English” (Swann, 2007, p.28). Discuss with particular reference to the labels ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard English.

“A standard language is one that provides agreed norms of usage, usually codified in dictionaries and grammars, for a wide range of institutional purposes such as education, government and science.” (Graddol et. Al 1996, p.83)

The Renaissance period started a revival of learning, particularly of the Greek and Latin literature which were seen as classics. This is where we are first introduced to ‘eloquence’ which was associated to the Greek and Latin languages and aspired to in the development of the English language by English authors. Today, eloquence still carries a meaning of class and a level at which to be looked up to.

English was initially standardised upon a problem posed by William Caxton. Caxton was responsible for importing printers in order to print books and literature. It was common for literature to be written in other European languages.

Although English was a spoken language, we can see from the development of the Old English language that lots of the vocabulary was taken from other sources and that only very basic grammatical structures had been in place for the written texts. Different texts from the time also conveyed different regional dialects with no hard and fast rules around spelling and Latin being the preferred choice of the written language.

Following decisive action, Claxton printed the books in the dialect of London and by taking decisive action opened the door to a language with acceptable letter formations, meanings and spoken terms which eventually became Standard English.

A standard is a point...
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