II CHANGE

IT is the fact of change, 'mutability' as Chaucer would say, that makes linguistics a science, viz. an historical science.1 The changes are seen in historical sequences such as Old English wif/wife, ufeweard/upward, fæğger/fair, eam/arm or ēċnes/eternity, folc/people, nation, ēode/went, in the first place as developments of speechsounds, in the second as substitutions in the lexicon. In a strictly contemporary sense, linguistic maps show change as the co-existence of forms belonging to different stages of evolution, as kirk/ church, Ptg. outeiro/Sp. otero 'hillock'. If we consider only the official language, such as literary French, we have to remember that parts of the apparently static pattern are actually in motion. The system is a shifting system. A French grammar shows a wellnurtured, subjunctive, for instance, which is virtually dead in current speech.

If we question our own consciences in the matter, we may reply at first that we have not changed our way of speaking and do not intend to. A little more reflection leads us to conclude that there is a tension in our speech between the need to conserve all symbols for the sake of intelligibility and an urge to create more effective expressions. The creative urge is discussed chiefly under the heads of stylistics and vocabulary, but the conservative attitude holds for grammar and speech-sounds. They are emotionally and intellectually indifferent, and our liberty to make small changes elsewhere depends on our keeping inviolate these symbols. Further reflection, however, reminds us that we have frequently been driven to the dictionary by hearing a word pronounced in an unfamiliar way, whether by an announcer on the B.B.C. or by a majority of people around us or by some person for whose judgement we have high respect. Thus, we may have said vágary (= vague) for vagáry or hesitated between láboratory and labóratory.

____________________
1
E. H. Sturtevant, Linguistic Change: an introduction to the historical study of language, New York, 1942, was rewritten as An Introduction to Linguistic Science, New Haven, 1947, 3rd ed., 1948. The altered title may have been a concession to those who profess descriptive linguistics, but in its first form it embodied a valuable thought.

-34-

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Aspects of Language
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Editor''s Preface v
  • Prefatory Letter vii
  • Contents xi
  • I- Language 1
  • II- Change 34
  • III- Techniques 71
  • IV- Sounds 97
  • V- Grammar- Form and Function 145
  • VI- Grammar- The Sentence 167
  • VII- Grammar- Parts of Speech 187
  • VIII- Words 226
  • IX- Values 265
  • X- Classification, Description, Affiliation 286
  • XI- Languages 305
  • Index 363
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