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March 04, 2012

Is The English Language Dying?

What do you think of this statement?

"Linguists estimate that about 2,500 of the world's 6,000 languages are "endangered." One of them is mine: 20th century North American Standard English."

Just when you think you have English all figured out...

...it morphs into something almost unrecognizable.

When I think back on the English language I grew up with, I marvel at the phrases and slang I hear every day.

Listen to every day conversations - or even media speakers - and take note of what "English" you are hearing.

Consider these examples and let us know what you think passes the "sounds right" rule.

If these sentences sound correct to you, you're afloat in a drifting language; if they don't, good luck finding a nursing home where they'll understand what you are saying.

1. "Thank you very much." "No problem." The answer used to be: "You're welcome."

2. "Me and him went to the Yankees game." In the English I grew up with, "me" and "him" were in the objective case, not the subjective; in current English "I" and "me" and "he" and "him" are interchangeable: "Dad gave he and I tickets to the Yankees game."

3. "Snow and sleet is falling on the city square." Traditional English treats a compound subject as plural. Modern English doesn't know what a compound subject is.

4. "The Dolphins played great in the third period." In the English of a previous generation, verbs took adverbs, not adjectives: "The Dolphins played brilliantly in the third period."

5. "You did real good in your presentation, you're sure to make the sale." In traditional English, you do real good when you do a good thing, and you do really well when your presentation impresses your audience. Also, in traditional English, you put a period or semicolon between one independent clause and another if you don't want to use a conjunction.

6. "We've done alright since we moved to London." In traditional, standard English, "alright" is alwrong. Those of us who care about our words use "all right."

7. "The company has less full-time employees, but the amount of part-timers has grown." In traditional English, "less" and "amount" apply only to non-count nouns like "flour" and "wealth." It says "fewer employees" and "number of part-timers."

8. "The committee made a fulsome study of the problem." According to the dictionary, "fulsome" means something like insincerely flattering. In Modern English, it somehow means "full."

9. "She's an alumni of USC." In the English I grew up with (and Old Latin), "alumni" is the male plural of "alumnus," and she must be an alumna of USC.

10. "So I'm like, ‘What's your problem?'" In traditional English, instead of "I'm like", grown-ups use "I said."

Is your English changing?

For more background on this topic, check out this article - http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/02/16/New-English/.

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just regular people might find interesting or useful.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Posted by mmorf at March 4, 2012 07:22 PM


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