Linguistic Predictions

Last year my husband and I downloaded several linguistics courses from the Great Courses. I know I know – this is my idea of a good time. I’m so rock and roll! Anyway, a lot of the lectures were about how language changes and evolves, and one of them was about predictions of how English will continue to change. I’ve decided to write and publish my own predictions as I think it will be interesting to look back on this in 30 or 40 years’ time to see how accurate I was.

First of all, I believe that ‘would of’, ‘could of’ and ‘should of’ will become an accepted alternative to ‘could have’, ‘would have’ and ‘should have’. It may even become the standard. This is one Professor John McWhorter, who wrote the course we listened to, disagrees with me about. I’m not as convinced as him, and this is why:

It’s a common mistake. I already see it in writing as often as I see the correct version – amongst the younger generations more than amongst the older ones. I’ve seen teachers using it, which means it is probably going uncorrected in some classes, which means it is likely to continue taking hold amongst the younger generations. Some of those who grow up believing it is correct will go on to become teachers and the error will continue to be passed on to future generations.

Self-publishing is becoming more widespread. There are lots of aspiring writers out there, and the publishing companies don’t take them all on. But it’s easier than ever to self-publish and still get your books out there. Some self-published writers still put their work through a rigorous proofing and editing process, but some don’t. Some books I’ve picked up have contained a shocking number of errors – ‘could of’, ‘would of’, ‘should of’ amongst them – and I’ve deleted them from my Kindle reader in disgust. I’m sure there will be a growing number of people over time who see these mistakes and think, “It’s published so it must be correct.”

Another change I’ve noticed sneaking into our language is a confusion between the past tense and the past participle. Instead of saying ‘I wrote’ / ‘I have written’   or   ‘I ran’ / ‘I have run’   and ‘I rang’ / ‘I have rung’,   people are saying, ‘I have wrote’ (I’ve wrote a letter to parents about the school trip), ‘I have rang’ (I’ve rang his parents several times about his behaviour), and ‘I have ran’ (I’ve ran after school clubs for the last 3 years). Again I’ve noticed lots of teachers using these so they are clearly being passed onto the next generation via the classroom.  ‘I have wrote’ occurs quite frequently in Jane Austen so it looks as though this particular grammatical construction has changed direction and is now heading back to how it used to be. I’m not sure what the linguistic explanation for this phenomenon is, but if anybody knows I’d be really interested in hearing it.

What else do I think will change? Punctuation, and the apostrophe in particular. There seems to be an increasing number of people who not only fail to place them where they should be, but also litter texts with unneeded ones and even confuse them with commas. A perfect example of all three of these errors is the sandwich shop near me called “Sarahs Buttie,s”. I think eventually there will be a law passed to abolish apostrophes completely.

I don’t think our government will follow our German and French cousins with spelling reforms, as quirky spelling is far too ingrained in our culture, but I do predict one spelling change. As names come in and out of fashion, I think the name of the good professor I mentioned at the beginning of this piece will fall out of use and John will be replaced by Jhon. This seems to be the most common name chosen by children to use in stories and I’ve never yet come across one who has placed the ‘h’ in the correct place!

M is for Maori

MMaori belongs to the Eastern Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. It is spoken by the Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) and has been an official language of New Zealand since 1987. Until the late 18th century it was the only language, closely related to Tahitian and Hawai’ian.

After the arrival of British settlers in New Zealand, English became the dominant language and only English was allowed to be spoken in school. Children who spoke Maori were punished. By the 1980s only about 20% of the Maori people spoke Te Reo as the language is known in Maori. Te Reo (short for Te Reo Maori) means “the language”.

From the 1980s there have been efforts to save the language from extinction, but it is still vulnerable and appears on the UNESCO endangered languages list.

One of the ways to protect the language was the setting up of “language nests” known as Kohanga Reo which is an immersion program for pre-school children where they socialise with older generations who are fluent speakers.

If you’d like to find out more about Maori and few words, there’s an interesting free course at Open2Study. You may also like this list of words.

Related posts:  L is for Latvian and Lithuanian     N is for……

L is for Latvian and Lithuanian

LThese two languages are the only two surviving languages of the Baltic subdivision of Proto-Indo-European. They are also believed to be the ones which are closest, linguistically speaking, to PIE, retaining many of its features. Although they probably started out as dialects of each other, they now have very different vocabularies and are not mutually intelligible. Both languages use the Latin alphabet.

Latvian is spoken by approximately 1.3 million native speakers and a further 700,000 people speak it as a second language. Lithuanian has about 3 ½ million speakers.

Related posts: K is for Korean and Kickapoo    M is for….

Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants

As a language teacher, I find these maps fascinating. Speaking another language opens doors to so many different cultures, and I’ve always loved travelling and visiting different countries and experiencing different ways of life.

Although the time when I could have happily emigrated has long gone, I can think of so many reasons why other people might choose to settle in a country other than where they were born: love, work, different opportunities….

Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants.

K is for Korean and Kickapoo

Like Basque and Japanese, Korean is a language isolate. It has about 70 million speakers in North and South Korea, and a further 5 million or so in NE China, parts of Japan, and small communities in Russia and the USA.

Until the 15th century Korean used Chinese characters for writing, and only the elite were able to read and write. In the 15th century the monarch, King Sejong, invented a new writing system which was more alphabetic, and this made writing more accessible to people.

Known as Hangul, the system consists of 24 symbols, representing vowel and consonant sounds which are written in a “box” approximately the same size as a Chinese character. Each “box” has a consonant-vowel-consonant symbol, written roughly left to right, top to bottom.

It has a subject-object-verb sentence structure and includes many basic words from old Chinese as well as an increasing number of borrowings from English.

Kickapoo, also written Kikapú, is not a well-known language – in fact it has only about 250 speakers, making it in danger of extinction – but it has such a great name I simply had to include it in my A-Z!

It belongs to the Algonquin family of languages. It originated in the Great Lakes area in North America, but is now almost extinct in the USA and most of its speakers live in Mexico. The language used to include “whistle speech” where each sound could be represented by whistle, but this aspect of the language has now died out from the lack of use.

Whistle languages were mostly used by hunters and herders, so that they could communicate without frightening the animals. The limitations of whistle sounds meant that many sentences were ambiguous, making this aspect of the language only useful in certain circumstances.

Sadly I can’t point you in the direction of a Kickapoo course, but if you fancy learning some Korean, have a look at FutureLearn.

Related posts: J is for Japanese     L is for…….