The study of linguistics is divided into numerous branches. Two of it most contrastive branches are
These are named by Saussure as
Historical and descriptive linguistics
Historical linguistics studies how languages change or maintain their structure during the course of time. Diachronic literally means, “History calling”. That is why this field of linguistics has been named as diachronic linguistics. While descriptive linguistics investigates and attributes to the linguistic data a uniform status of linguistic simultancity without any regard for time factor. Synchronic means at a given time not necessarily present. That is why this approach of studying languages has been named as synchronic linguistics.
Domain of historic linguistics
Historical linguistics is that branch of linguistics which
1-Focuses on the interconnections between different languages in the world
2-Studies their historical developments
3-Investigate how languages evolve and changes through time
4-How multiple offspring languages can arise from one past parent language
5-How cultural contact between speakers of different languages can influence language development and evolution.
Brian D. Joseph( ) defines historical linguistics as
Historical linguistics is the branch of linguistics that is concerned with language change in general and with specific changes in languages, and in particular
With describing them
With cataloging them
And ultimately with explaining them
Interdependency of diachronic and synchronic linguistics
The strict division between these two branches of linguistics is based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between these two aspects of the study of language. The unstable state of a language at a given point of time is the consequence of historical processes, and its very instability is the evidence that these processes continue to operate in the present. There is also a close interrelationship between synchronic linguistic variations and diachronic linguistic change. Diachronic linguistics as well needs the synchronic data of the language at different times.
Everything in the human affairs change. It would be a surprise if languages do not change. A basic assumption in historical linguistics is that languages are constantly changing. It is not something static or non-changing. It is one of the most dynamic areas of culture.
HISTORCAL BACGROUND 1- Antiquity and the middle ages
The ancient Greeks laid down the foundation for the studies of historical linguistics. Their philosophic studies incorporated speculations on the nature of language. In etymology they debated whether or not the names of things arose due to the natural attributes of the objects in question or were founded by convention.
With the advent of Renaissance, language studies underwent a change as both local and non-Indo-European languages came under linguistic scrutiny. As trade routs opened to the East and explorers ranged the lands of the New World, data on exotic languages began to stimulate the minds of the linguists. An important trend in the seventeenth century was to the effort to compare and classify languages in accordance with their resembences. The study of etymology also gained momentum.
3-The twentieth century
The first decade of the twentieth century saw a shift in the linguistic sciences with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. His view of language
1-as a system of arbitrary signs
2-His distinction between language and speech
3- His separation of descriptive and historical linguistics into two defined spheres of interest
These views caused development in the field of descriptive linguistics while historical linguistics and comparative studies lost their prominence.
Historical linguistics today
Today among the disciplines that make up the broad field of linguistics (descriptive, historical, sociological, psychological, etc) historical linguistics has become another branch of the multivaried area of investigation.
PRINCIPLES OF THE HISTORICAL LINGUISTIC ENQUIRY
1-All languages are in a continual process of change
2-All languages are subject to the same kind of modifying influence.
3-Language change is regular and systemic, allowing for unhindered communication among the speakers.
4-Linguistic and social factors are inter-related in language change
5-Linguistic systems tend towards as-yet-unspecified states of economy.
Substance of change
Virtually all aspects of language are subject to change, except for those that correspond to absolute linguistic universals that truly cannot be violated. Thus the simple answer to what can change in language is “everything”(phonology,morphology, semantics, grammar etc)
Why do languages change?
Reasons given by non-specialists
1-Change in language is brought about under the influence of geography
2-Change is brought due to change in internal anatomy
3-People are too lazy too use the language properly
Reasons given by linguists
The concept of language inferiority
Speakers of different cultures and periods have often tended to thin that their own language is inferior to that of their forbearers. For them language is a matter of decline or decay. But this is a misconception. Changes are a necessary development to make language more communicatively effective as they become attune to changing social needs.
Why do languages change?
All languages are continually changing- their sounds, their syntax, their meaning. None of the changes happen overnight. They are gradual and probably difficult to discern while they are in progress. The most pervasive source of language change seems to be in the continual process of cultural transmission. Each new generation has to find a way of using the language of the previous generation. In this unending process whereby each new language user has to recreate for himself the language of the community, there is an unavoidable propensity to pick up some elements exactly and others approximately.Due to this transmission process it is expected that language will not remain the same.
Aims and scope of historical linguistics
1-It studies the history of particular languages on the basis of existing written data.
2-It studies the pre history of languages by means of comparative reconstruction.
3-It studies the ongoing change in language.
4- it deals with the questions lie
What is changed in a language?
How is it changed?
Why did the change occur?
Cognates are vocabulary words from two or more languages, which sound similar and refer to the same thing. Cognates serve as clues that two or more languages are related to one another related to one another since they share strong similarities in the form and meaning of certain vocabulary.
If multiple languages can be shown to have come from the same common root, which the linguists assume to have happened, then what is the historical process that ultimately leads to their separation into different languages?
One possible answer of this question is the formation of dialects. A dialect can be defined as a geographical or social subdivision of a language that differs systematically from other such subdivisions of the same language in its vocabulary, grammar, and phonology.
Extension or broadening of meaning
In extension or broadening of words the meaning of a word becomes more general i.e. from particular to general.
The main mechanisms in it are metaphor and metonymy .
Metaphor involves the transfer or term because of an imagined similarity .
Metonymy uses the name of an attribute to denote the whole entity, such as white house for the American president
In semantic narrowing meaning of a word becomes particular i.e. from general to particular. It is a reverse process of extension.
Semantic bleaching, a particular type of semantic change, is connected with grammaticalization as when English will develop from its full verb meaning 'to want' into the modern auxiliary will, which now only has grammatical meanings.
Meanings can also be classified according to speaker’s evaluation . Speaker may interpret an evaluation as neutral, positive, or negative and this interpretation or evaluation is subject to change. And such different evaluations are the result of associations which words take in different contexts, i.e. in the process of speech.
An improvement of meaning or amelioration of meaning has occurred in the case of word knight , originally it was used for boy, youth and attendant but its meaning is improved to its modern meaning.
Pejoration of meaning or negative evaluation is there in knave , in old English it was used for a boy, then for peasant, and now as villain.
Extensive shift of meaning clouds the relationship of original meaning with the modern meaning. For example meanings of silly.
Borrowing of words
We borrow words from other languages, a result of intercommunication. We often a word for which we have a synonym native word and this borrowing results in the disappearance of the word e.g. ceapman for merchant.
Why these semantic changes occur?
Both linguistic as well as extra linguistic factors are involved in semantic change .
Extra linguistic factors
Psychological factor is also involved in the semantic change and it is a basic human tendency to emphasize and exaggerate. Constant use of words may fade the specific meanings, so new and more expressive forms are needed.
Another main cause or factor of lexical change is taboo ; we don’t want to give direct reference to unpleasant or socially stigmatized concepts.
The meaning relation plays a major role in semantic change.
Tendency to avoid synonym words for reason of economy.
Homonymic clash, For example the old English word laetan (to let) and lettan (to hinder); they have opposite meanings but became homonym under the form let. Then gradually lettan (to hinder) disappeared due to this homonymic clash.
So, there are number of factors involved in semantic changes.
Grammatical change can be understood by morphological level and syntactical level
Phonemes provides information on the grammatical relations between words in a sentence.
Teach is the free lexical morpheme and es is the bond inflectional Grammatical change can be understood by morphological and syntactic change.
It expresses complex meaning ‘3 rd person singular present tense ’.
Language Typology; isolating, agglutinating, and inflecting
Isolating : A language in which words generally consist of single and clearly distinguishable morpheme. Like Chinese
Agglutinating: A language in which words consist of morphemes which are formally neatly separable and each have a single meaning , such as Turkish and Japanese.
Inflecting: Language in which grammatical relationships like number, tense etc. are predominantly expressed by grammatical affixes. Like Latin and Greek
Languages tend to change their morphological type in a kind of cycle
Isolating languages became agglutinating, these in turn gradually become agglutinating , these in turn gradually becoming inflecting , only to end up as isolating again.
Changes from isolating structures to agglutinating have been observed in pidgin and Creole languages.
Difference between the structure of sentences in old and modern English involve “word order”
The subject can follow the verb, as in Ferde he (he travelled)
Object can be placed before verb, as Hine geseah (he saw him)
Or at the beginning of the sentence him man ne sealed, (no man gave to him)
A double negative construction was also possible with both “not” and never.
(and) (not) (gave) (you) (me) (never) (a) (book)
Change in tense form; for example Old English knew two tenses present and past whereas modern opposition in ‘progressive’ forms as in ‘I read’ vs. I am reading etc.
Reanalysis; The re interpretation of a sequence of morphemes or a syntactic construction by reassigning them a new function or internal structure.
To_ the_ king pleased (the) pears.’
O V S
The king liked the pears
Grammaticalization: The process whereby an independent lexical word gradually acquires a grammatical function.
For example: development from main to auxiliary verbs
Development of progressive form, he is hunting, he is a hunting, he is on hunting.
sounds of a language are affected over the course of time by modifications that tend to be regular and systematic. The study of sound change is the best researched area of historical linguistics, with the longest tradition. The speech sounds we hear are realizations or ‘allophones’ of underlying abstract distinctive sound units, the phonemes.
Sound change or phonological change may happen both on the concrete level of speech production (phonetic change) and on the abstract level of phonemes (phonemic change).
How Sounds are produced?
We can only understand phonetic change if we know the basic principles of how speech sounds are produced.
In the production of vowel and consonant, the speaker modifies the airflow from the lungs through different positions and movements of the speech organs, i.e. the vocal folds, larynx, oral and nasal cavities, tongue, jaws, teeth and lips.
The involvement of speech organs, as well as acoustic criteria, provide the basis for a classification of sounds.
All vowels are voiced sounds, i.e the passing airflow is modified by the vibrating vocal folds or cords. The quality of vowels results from the shape of the oral cavity, which depends mainly on the position of the tongue, though lips and jaws also play some role. A rather low tongue produces the ‘open’ or ‘low’ Vowel , while the tongue is raised for the closed’ or ‘high’ vowels [i,u].
With ‘front’ or ‘palatal’ vowels the front part of the tongue is raised.
With back or velar ones its back part.
With central vowel being in the middle.
The production of all consonants involves different kinds of obstruction of the air flow (called manner of articulation).
Another parameter for classification is the place of articulation i.e the point where the obstruction is formed: the labials [p,b] involve the lips.
The labio – dentals [f,v] the teeth.
The lower lips [ ] are formed with the tongue against the teeth.
While [s,z,,z] involve different parts of the alveolar ridge just behind the teeth.
With nasal cavity serves as a resonator, producing bilabial [m], dental or alveolar [n].
Palatalization of the vowels
A sound in which the position of the tongue is fronted towards the hard palate, e.g. As in the change from [u] > [y] or of [o] > [e] was frequent in old English. It is still reflected in the vowel alteration of pairs such as English mouse – mice, foot – feet, Where the vowel in the second forms was palatalize by an [ i ]
The sound change in which the back of the tongue is moved backwards towards the velum e.g [e] > [o]
Vowels may also be raised as in English goose, boot, where [u:] developed from middle English [o]
The change of a pure vowel into a diphthong i.e. a vowel ending in a glide, as in [u:] > [au]
Diphthongization changes a simple vowel into a diphthong i.e. a vowel in whose production the tongue changes its position, as in English house, ride which in middle English had [u:] and [i:] respectively
The process whereby a diphthong becomes a monophthong i.e. a vowel with a perceived stable quality, e.g. [ai] > [a:]
Fire > [fa:]
Change in Manner of Articulation in relation to consonants
Consonants may change both their manner and their place of articulation. A wide spared in manner of articulation is spirantization.
The sound change from stop to fricative, as
In [p] > [f]
The change from stop to fricative, as in Grimm’s law when the Indo-European voiceless stops [p,t,k] became voiceless fricatives [f,o,x] etc.
Phonetic change may be
Unconditioned , i.e affect all occurrences of a specific sound irrespective of its context, or
Conditioned, i.e in that it only occurs in a specific phonetic environment, as when in English [r] was lost before consonants and word – finally, as in court [k: t], hair [hea] but we retained in all other positions like, ring, hairy etc.
The cover term for process which involve some ‘weakening’ of sounds, such as voicing. For example, in some kind of hierarchical order like the change of voiceless consonants in voiced ones, spiranization as in Grimm’s law, vocalization of consonants and the deletion or disappearance of sounds as in French mur ‘mature’ Latin ‘maturus’
Assimilation The process whereby two neighboring sounds become more similar (‘partial’) or identical (‘complete’).
In the first syllabus of English impossible, illiterate the two different allomorphs of a morpheme meaning ‘not’ are due to assimilation to the following consonant.
The process whereby a sound becomes less similar to another, neighboring one, as in pilgrim (< Latin peregrinus).
Language differ in their number of phonemes and in the way they are organized into systems.
The phonemic change whereby one phoneme merges (completely or partially) with another one, thus leading to a loss of phonemic opposition phonemic merger is complete merger of two formerly distinct phonemes occurred with middle English long ‘e’ sounds as in meet and reed etc. These two vowels must have been similar to acoustic and articulatory terms, so that the margin of security between was rather small – a fact which may have contributed to their merging under in modern English.
A series of interrelated unconditioned sound changes in which the phonetic realization of certain phonemes changes systematically with one charge initiating another as the change of indo – European.
∕ p, t, k∕ > ∕ f, o, x∕ ; ∕b, d, g∕ > ∕p, t, k∕
; ∕bh, dh, gh/ > /b, d, g/.
This focuses on the wide scope and changing emphasis of historical linguistics. Language is the most human property we have and with other historical disciplines, the study of language change can fundamentally contribute to our understanding of our past history as well as of our present condition as human beings endowed with language.