An Historical Study of English: Function, Form, and Change

By Jeremy Smith | Go to book overview

8

Two varieties in context

VARIETIES IN CONTEXT

In Part II, the theme of dynamic interaction has been explored through the examination of a set of particular linguistic outputs. The focus has been on individual events, and the aim has been to show how a particular event is the result of the interaction of intra- and extralinguistic processes working in combination.

The reader may be forgiven, however, for becoming impatient with the 'bittiness' of the discussion so far. To bring some coherence into the argument, the present chapter is designed to give an account of the emergence of the varieties of language in use in two communities: Scotland, and the London black community. The theme of this chapter is that whole varieties, not just individual linguistic 'events', are the result of complex processes of interaction.

The choice of the varieties discussed here is governed by a major consideration: English has become, in the twentieth century, a worldwide language, with more speakers than any other language (save possibly Chinese) has ever achieved. It therefore behoves anyone working in the field of historical study to avoid too anglocentric a focus, since English is no longer the property of just the English. For many years, the historical study of the language was taken to be a study of a steady development towards Standard English as used in the South of England. Since English is now the property of many people a long way from that part of the world, it seems worth while to make a conscious effort to overcome this focus, even though the expertise of the present writer means that the focus remains on the British Isles.

It is this orientation which has determined the choice of the two varieties given special attention in this chapter. In Scotland, the variety known as Scots has the longest attested history of any major language-variety derived from Old English outside the geographical boundaries of present-day England, and was the first non-English variety to begin developing a standardised form of the language. It therefore provides invaluable diachronic information distinct from the history of English varieties. Furthermore, Scots has had an especially intimate contact with English

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An Historical Study of English: Function, Form, and Change
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Plates ix
  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Symbols and Signs, Mainly Phonetic xvi
  • Part I 1
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - On Evidence 13
  • 3 - Linguistic Evolution 39
  • Part II 53
  • 4 - Transmission I: Change in Writing-System 55
  • 5 - Transmission Ii: Sound-Change 79
  • 6 - Change in the Lexicon 112
  • 7 - Grammatical Change 141
  • Part III 163
  • 8 - Two Varieties in Context 165
  • 9 - Conclusion 194
  • Notes 197
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 201
  • References 207
  • Index 216
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