Languages usually change very slowly over time, but they are always
evolving as long as they are in use. English is a perfect example of a
language that has maneuvered through many changes. Students only have to
read classic writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare to know that we don’t
speak, write, or spell as these authors did; the meanings of some of the words
these writers used can be quite elusive and unintelligible. After so many
years of gradual change, it is unlikely this version of English will undergo a
resurgence. If that is so, why should we be so disparaging of the notion of
change in modern English?
Types of changes include the weakening, strengthening, or changing of
the meaning of a word over time. For example, “sick” used to only mean ill.
Then it acquired the additional meaning of “mentally unbalanced” when the
phrase “sick in the head” was shortened. From there it has been used to mean
“gross” or “awful,” and today it is commonly used as its antonym. When
today’s generation says something is “sick,” they mean it is unbelievably
fantastic! Vocabulary too can change when words are shortened. In the U.S.,
“radical” is often shortened to “rad.” Among Singaporean teens, “ex” is often
used instead of “expensive.” To anyone unfamiliar with the abbreviation,
these colloquialisms can get very confusing!
Languages change when foreign influences get into the mix. The Norman
French descended on and conquered England in 1066, and this had a
profound effect on the Anglo Saxon English of the time. The rugged native
language was enriched with new vocabulary and grammatical structures.
Sometimes languages can evolve in a short time—across just a few
generations or even a single generation. The development of Creole is an
example of such rapid change. Creole is the convergence of two different
languages in such a way that it becomes a new language in itself and has its
first-language speakers. In the U.S., adult slaves were brought together with
no common language between them. They accumulated the vocabulary of
their slave masters as a tool with which to communicate, but used the
grammar structures of their native languages. This new tongue that developed
diverged enough from its root languages to become a completely different
Probably the biggest changes in the English language today are occurring
with the written word. Technology and the changes it has made in the way we
communicate are having a dramatic effect on the way the language can
unofficially be written. Sending text messages has become a preferred way to
communicate. In addition, communication needs to be quick, so teens have
found new ways to shorten words in text messages and in Internet chat rooms
for the dual purpose of brevity and privacy from the prying eyes of parents.
The written text has gradually morphed into a separate code understood only
by those in the know and is probably on the brink of becoming its own
written language. As a result, punctuation rules are also being ignored and it
is even suggested that in the future capital letters will no longer have a place
in the written language.
In 500 years, it is quite likely our ancestors will look at this page and,
just like schoolchildren experiencing Shakespeare today, find deciphering its
contents extremely arduous!
【Group】56. Which of the following statements best summarizes the writer’s view?
(A) Language will always change.
(B) Language may change in a variety of ways.
(C) English has evolved several times since the 14th century.
(D) The English language is spoken differently in various parts of the world.