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English Linguistics

The evolution of the English Language continues the way to more modern English. This language
consist many vocabularies of other languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, German and so much
more. Nowadays we have modern English which has been created due to a huge amount of changes
in the language as new words have been added to it. The influence of historical events has also
contributed greatly to this evolution.
The original root of the English language was from Neolithic people known as Indo- Europeans.
There was a time when the Indo-European began to break down to different countries that is Europe
and Asia in search of new hunting grounds and so their languages started to developed and diverged.
The language had been split into many major large groups families (for example: Hellenic, Italic,
Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Germanic, Armenian, Balto-Slavic and Albanian). There were also other groups
which had been abolished completely (for example: Anatolian, Tocharian, Phrygian, Thracian,
Illyrian, etc) and some did not left any trace about them. The major ones then divided into new
languages such as Swedish to Portuguese to Hindi to Latin to Frisian. The existence of cognates can
also be seen because of diverse languages such as Gaelic, Greek Farsi and Sinhalese due to common
words in different languages. Jacob Grimm, a well-respected early philologist, pointed out that
certain consonants in the Germanic family of languages have shifted in some way from the base of
Indo-European (for example: foot in English, fod in Danish, fot in Swedish are related to the Latin
ped, Lithuanian peda or Sanskrit pada; where there is the shifting of “p” to “f” and the “d” to “t”).
This process explains many root differences in English words of Germanic and Latinate origin (for
example: father and paternal, three and triple etc). Celtic was the predominant language of England
until the Romans came to occupy England then Latin was introduced. Celtic warriors could not resist
the strength of the Roman army so they left Britain then the Roman ruled for a very long period of
time (AD 43 to 410) and they placed their culture and civilization there. Latin became the official
language at that time especially in towns and cities whereas Celtic was still spoken in the rural areas.
In AD 410, Latin began to wane because the Roman armies were out of Britain but they contributed
to linguistics as some English words are derived from the original Latin (for e.g.: the word “camp” is
derived from the word “casta”, some places’ names are from Latin such as Manchester and
Lancaster or even the word “portus” which means “gate” gave names such as Port sea and
After the Romans departure, the Celts asked the Germanic warriors who are the Angles, the Saxons
and the Jutes for help so they started to occupy different parts of England where the Angles settled in
the north and central, the Saxons were in the south and finally, the Jutes occupied Kent. The name
“England” was finalized after a lot of changes i.e. the Celts called the Anglo- Saxon as “Sassenachs”
then at the end of the 6th century, the name “Angles” was used after that the Latin name for the
country was “Anglia” which became “Engle” in Old English then “Englisc”. It was during the 10th
century, it became “Englaland” or “Aegle-land” which meant the land of the Angles then finally it
became England.
Old English was a language then used by three Germanic tribes when they came to settle in
England. But that language had four main dialects namely, North Umbria, Mercian, West Saxon and
Kentish which were spoken in different parts of Britain and Scotland. Old English resembled Latin
as the English was taken over the Latin one. Christianity was introduced in England in AD597 and
Latin was again used there as the dominant church was a Roman Catholic and also it was the
universal language of church and education. New words were introduced at the church which
expressed new ideas.
At that time, people began themselves through literature and one of the first literary works was
“Beowulf”. Many words were borrowed from the religion i.e. the Bible at the time Christian
evolution which are still used nowadays such as angel, nun, shrine, temple, candle, hymn, martyr,
anthem, priest. After the Old English period, the Danes from Denmark which came from the
Scandinavian region also called as the Vikings made huge influence on the English language. As the
Vikings settled permanently in England, they accepted the Anglo- Saxon religion and language.
More than 1400 places in England still have Scandinavian names and words were also borrowed (for
e.g.: words which are pronounced with “sk” such as sky, skin and whisk are from Scandinavian and
words such as bank, egg, sister, window, happy, low, weak, die, give, take, both, they, same and a
few more words were introduced). The Danish when they came to England, they brought new
civilization and so the new things came with new vocabularies which entered the English language
in everyday interaction.
In the 12th century, the Norman Conquest changed the Old English language to a new Middle English. The
civilization of the Normans was French and this how the French language came to England and was introduced
as the second official language. Middle English was a mixture of both languages that is French and English. In
13th century, about 10,000 French words were included in English and about three quarters of them are still used
in the language today including Old English (for e.g.: doom- Old English, judgment- French , hearty- Old
English, cordial- French, house- Old English and mansion- French). Many words were borrowed from the
church, art, literature, the army, science and the court (for e.g.: prince, battle, soldier, prayer, judge, poem, paint,
image, surgeon, theory, physician, electricity, gravity, cardiac, ovary and so on) whereas domestic animals were
named by the Englishmen of lower classes and their corresponding dishes were mostly in French: sheep-mutton,
pig-pork, hen-poultry, calf-veal or ox-beef. The Normans did not only bring changes to the vocabulary of Old
English but also spelling changes.
The Great Vowel Shift and the advent of the printing press were the two major factors which separated Middle
and Modern English by influencing the language. The Great Vowel Shift was a change in pronunciation in 1400
as people in the London region and other dialects affected the pronunciation pattern. For example, Chaucer’s
pronunciation would have been very difficult for Modern English speaker to understand while Shakespeare’s
pronunciation would have been accented but understandable. Words were also derived from the Middle English
literature, for example, Chaucer’s word “lyf” became the word life nowadays and Shakespeare’s “wif” became
the word wife. On the other hand, the printing press became common in form of literacy and so this led to a
more Standard English where grammar and spelling became fixed and also the first English dictionary was
published in 1604.
Renaissance was a time of learning and discovery so new words were added to the language for new concepts
which needed a name. Due to a debate which was conducted by Latin and Greek promoters, a large number of
Latin and Greek had to be borrowed into English. The expansion of the British Empire affected the vocabulary
of English as languages of other countries were adopted by the people of England and they borrowed words
which denoted objects and phenomena which they did not know ( for e.g.: taboo, bungalow, yoga, ketchup,
boomerang, tea etc). Other counties’ names of food such as pizza, pretzels, pasta and so on were added to the
English language including new places such as casino and restaurant. Some words were created due to
advanced technology such as emails which created words like inbox, outbox or spam where on the other hand,
computer created new terms such as download, toolbar and so on. Due to socialization on the internet, new
words which are known as slang such as “omg”, “lol” and “btw” in which long words or a sentence are
converted into short ones have been added into dictionaries and acceptable by the English language.
English language keeps adding words continuously as long as new concepts and technologies are created
(for e.g.: Smartphone, tablet, e-book and so on). However, English remains the single most important and
influential language in today’s world and it has continually proved itself as the most flexible of all languages
due to its ability to adopt and absorb vocabulary from other sources.
Compounding is the process of combining two or more words (free morphemes) to create
a new word which can be a noun, a verb or an adjective (for example:
white+board=whiteboard). Normally, compounds are written as one word (for e.g.:
sunglasses), two hyphenated words (for e.g.: life-threatening) or two separate words
(for e.g.: dining room). In syntax, there is no problem concerning compounds words as
they behave like simple and normal words (for e.g.: My friend bought a doormat
yesterday; where doormat is a compound word). Identification of compound words is
easy if we know the meaning of the summed parts (for e.g.: sunglasses which means that
they are glasses specially for the sun) but sometimes it can be very tricky as some
compounds words may meant something else beside the summed parts (for e.g.: when we
consider the word “hotdog”, it is not a food made from dog but simply a bread with
sausage and mustard sauce) and this is known as exocentric compound. We have also
other types of compounds words such as endocentric which contains the basic meaning of
the word ( for e.g.: doghouse), exocentric in which meaning cannot be guessed easily (for
e.g.: white-collar), copulative which have two semantic heads and can be easily
recognized when adding “and” between the two heads (for e.g.: sleepwalk) and lastly we
have appositional in which we have two contrary attributes (for e.g.: player-coach; where
we can understand that the person is both a player and a coach).
In compounding, we can combined two or more nouns to form only one noun (for e.g.:
sister-in-law, grapefruit juice, iced tea, etc) but sometimes a compounded noun’s
meaning cannot be identified or even place names (for e.g.: bonfire, North+village=
Norwich, Marshall, etc) and this type of noun compound is known as amalgamated
compound. Distinguish a compound can be done by recognizing the rightmost morpheme
(for e.g.: blackbird is a noun as the rightmost morpheme is bird, spoon-feed is a verb as
the rightmost morpheme is feed and worldwide is an adjective as the rightmost
morpheme is wide). English language has been influenced by compounding at a huge
extend as it is easy for English learners to describe things easily that is it can be used
indicate what is the profession of someone ( for e.g.: football player), what is something
made for (for e.g.: dish washer), what is the qualities of something (for e.g.: whiteboard),
how something works (for e.g.: touch screen), where something is meant to be (for e.g.:
bed sheet, doormat) and of what something is made up of ( for e.g.: cotton buds).
Compounding is a one more evidence to prove the flexibility of the English language.
Nowadays, clipping is commonly used and acceptable by the English language. The term
“clipping” describes itself that is longer words are clipped i.e. reduced to shorter ones
(For example: aero plane-plane, influenza- flu, telephone- phone, bicycle-bike, etc) but it
does not change meaning of words compared to back formation. According to
Marchand (1969), clippings are not coined as words belonging to the standard vocabulary
of a language and he stated that they originated from school slang (for example:
examination- exam, mathematics- math and so on.). Clipping is caused in some way by
laziness in speech. There are four types of clipping and these are back clipping, fore
clipping, middle clipping and complex clipping. Back clipping words is formed by
removing the end of a word (for example: examination- exam). Fore clipping is when
removing the beginning of a word (for example: raccoon- coon). Middle clipping is
keeping only the middle of a word (for example: influenza-flu) and lastly is complex
clipping where multiple parts of various words are removed (for example: situation
comedy- sitcom).
Clipping has greatly influenced the English language as learners have placed it in their
daily life and they do not consider the unclipped words at all. English learners are
habituated to it in both writing and speaking. Sometimes students tend to forget to write
the original words for the examinations and they put clipped words instead so they may
be penalized for that. Even professionals at work do that when typing mails or when
speaking in a meeting. Clipping has become a trend nowadays due to the addiction of
sending messages or chatting with friends.
Many clipped words have been also become part of the English vocabulary and have
also been included in dictionaries (for example: fax- facsimile). Theodore Bernstein
(1971) stated that :
“As time-savers and breath-savers, clipped words defy the pedants and win their
way to respectability. This has been true for a long time- witness piano from
pianoforte and cello from violoncello”
Phonology is concerned with the abstract, grammatical characterization of systems of
sounds or signs. It analyzes the pattern forms of phonemes. The term phonetics is a
branch of linguistics that comprises the study of sounds of human speech. It approaches
the different accents and variation of the pattern. According to phonology, a vowel letter
can represent different vowel sounds (for example: HAT [hæt] – HATE [heit]).
Phonemes are symbols that are used to differentiate sounds and these are divided into
vowels, consonants and diphthongs. There are some sounds that are unstressed syllables
which are found in all vowels (for example: æ, Ə, θ and ð) but the theory is not only
about individual sounds so the English speakers made stressed syllables by making words
louder, longer and higher (for example: PHOtograph [/’fәΩtәgra:f/] and
phoTOgrapher[/fә’t grәfәr/] ).
In rhythm, we have both syllable stress and word stress that is a sentence, the content
words i.e. main verbs, nouns, adjectives and so on bring the meaning and must be
stressed and the function words i.e. articles, prepositions, pronouns and so on are weaker
and almost disappear when speaking. Intonation is essential in English so that to be able
to express the correct meaning of what we want to say.
Many people have problems in pronunciation due to wrong teaching of phonology which
can lead to wrong meaning of words (for example: the word ‘piece’ may be heard like
‘peace’ or ‘piss’ or the word ‘sheet’ may be heard as ‘shit’). To have a good
pronunciation, we must practice by doing drilling, tongue twisters, sounds comparison or
noticing. Learning phonology helps a person greatly by making him to pronounce words
correctly using his different organs such as tongue, lips, teeth, nasal cavity, oral cavity,
pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs and diaphragm. English sounds are made by using the air
which comes out from the lungs which are helped by the diaphragm. Phonology also
helps us to identify different types of sounds made by different parts of our body such as
bilabials which helps us to pronounce by placing the lips together. Other types of sounds
are labiodentals in which the lower lip is raised towards the teeth, dentals in which the
upper front teeth touches the tip of the tongue, alveolar in which the tip of tongue is
raised towards the alveolar ridge, palatals in which the tongue is raised towards the
palate, velars in which the back of the tongue touches the velum and glottal in which air
is passed through the glottis. If we learn phonology very well then it is very easy to notice
pronunciation mistakes when people speak.
Morphology is concerned with the study of word structure and word formation in where we combine words to
form a sentence. Words are impossible to be defined but they can be broken down as units so to be able to
combine them to form sentences. In the other way, sentences can be broken down into smaller units to be
more meaningful and these meaningful parts are called morphemes. A morpheme may be represented as a
single sound (for example: “a”-“live”; where a is a single sound ) and as one or more syllables (for example:
“child”- “ish” or “wa”-“ter” or “cro”-“co”-“dile”). In morphemes theory, we also have homonyms where
words are pronounced the same but have different meanings (for example: to-too-two) and homograph where
words are written the same but different meanings or pronunciation (for example: bow of a tie and Japanese
bow). There are two types of morphemes, one is free morpheme and the other is bound morpheme. A free
morpheme is the one which can be uttered alone with meaning (for example: book, chair, etc) and bound
morpheme cannot be uttered alone and with no meaning but they can be added to other morphemes to form a
word (for example: apple-“s”, kind-“ly”, “re”-play, etc.).
Bound morphemes are referred as affixes that is they precede free morphemes which are called prefixes and
those which follow free morphemes are suffixes ( for example: adding “dis”, “un”, “pre”, “trans” or “bi”
before a free morpheme are prefixes and adding “ly”, “ness”, “ish”, “ity” or “er” at the end of a free
morpheme are suffixes). Bound morphemes come also in two varieties, derivational and inflectional, where
derivational creates new words or changes the word classes ( for example: if we add “ness” to the word
“happy”, it becomes “happiness” and the word changes from being adjective to noun) and inflectional allows
English learners to decode grammatical information ( for example: if we add “s” to a morpheme, we can see
that the word is plural or if “ed” is added, we can see that the verb is a past tense etc.).
The linguists, Fromkin and Rodman (1998) pointed out that morphology is an important aspect of grammar as
it presents articles that contribute to further articulation of morphological theory and linguistic theory in
general which provide also new and unexplored data. When learning morphology, we can see the flexibility of
the English language due to affixes and suffixes. When we have morphological knowledge, we can easily
transform words into various possibilities to be able to express message more accurately. In addition, we can
easily distinguish nouns, adverbs, plurals, verbs and adjectives and also understand words we have heard
before. Morphology also leads us to a perfect writing skills and speaking skills. Learning this subject, it helps
us to see the relationship of English and other languages that is there are many words that have been borrowed
from other languages such as Latin, German and French ( for example: croissant, sofa and so on.) and also to
recognize words that is which one is from the English language and which one is not. In all, morphology helps
an English learner to form words and accepts or discards new words he can come across in the disguise of
right and wrong ones.
Pragmatics is the study of language by interpreting our own point of views and it is
concerned on the use of language in particular situations i.e. it focuses on the elements
that influence as the meaning of people’s communication. According to Fasold (2006)
“Pragmatics concerns both the relationship between context of use and sentence meaning,
and the relationship among sentence meaning, context of use and speaker’s meaning”.
Pragmatics is a very competent theory as it has the ability to comprehend, construct and
give out meanings which is both accurate and appropriate in any circumstances where
there is communication.
Hymes (1974) proposed a model using a mnemonic device S-P-E-A-K-I-N-G to show
pragmatics elements where S represents “setting” and “scene”, the situation where
communication occurs. P stands for “participants”, the people involved in the
communication including their relationships. E describes “ends”, the outcome of the
communication. A represents “act sequence”, the order of pieces of the communication.
K stands for “key”, the tone or manner of the exchange of communication between
participants. N represents “norms”, social expectation and whether the communication is
acceptable or not. And finally G stands for “genre”, kind of communication involved. For
example, a student is not taking his studies seriously; the teacher scolds him because she
wants him to be on the right track. The student, in turn, decides to listen and accept the
teacher’s advice because he respects her a lot and acknowledges that she wills the best
future for him.
In this example, the SPEAKING model is used which helped to analyze and identify the
appropriate language for this situation but not the explicit behaviors that comprise
communication. Pragmatics is an essential key to have an effective communication but
there are many people who do not consider the pragmatic competence. It also provides
the skill for non-native English speakers to become a successful communicator in
English. When a learner is pragmatically incompetent, his utterance could be wrong (for
e.g.: someone is asking for a book, he may says ‘Give me your book, please!’ which not
good as he did not use the request strategy which is ‘Could I have your book, please?’) so
his request may be rejected because he did not ask properly and politely according to the
lender even if his communication was effective.
In pragmatics, more vocabulary is needed as grammatical competence starts to develop.
Learning English pragmatically is essential to be able to immerse into an English
speaking country or society and culture so that our communication are understood
correctly. When learners have pragmatic skills such as eye contact, asking for
clarification, using humor and so on; communicating their personal thoughts, feelings and
ideas become very easy. Learners with poor pragmatic skills often misinterpret other’s
communication intention and so they have great difficulty to respond correctly either
verbally or non- verbally (facial expression, body language, intonation and body
Syntax is concerned with the structure of phrases and sentences in which words are
combined systematically so that to be able to make sense in a sentence. For syntax, a
sentence must contains a verb phrase and a noun phrase for it to make sense ( for e.g.: A
car bought Mary; the sentence has no sense so it has to be constructed in way where it
makes sense that is we have to put the verb and noun phrase at their correct order; Mary
bought a car). Other phrases can also be added such as adverb, adjectives, prepositional
and co-ordinate phrases to form a perfect sentence.
Syntax is essential for learners so that they can recognize word order and sentence
structure and it must be done at a beginner level as if their syntax is not good at an early
stage, they will get difficulty to correct syntax problems when they will be at an advanced
level. For example, many students who have syntax problems cannot translate their native
language into English properly that is they have problems with the word order and so
they simply translate the words of their language into English (for e.g.: Spanish speakers
always make the mistake of placing noun before an adjective). Syntax is learned before
speech and grammar so that they master the structure of phases or sentences and word
order so when the students progress with their learning of English, they can start creating
their own sentences. Due to syntax, learners can distinguish the difference between their
native language and English language in the field of word order and grammar.
When studying syntax, we can see how a multilingual speaker can construct sentences
despite the different structure of the other languages (for e.g.: a Chinese or a Russian
speaker) and also shows us how languages work. In language, we have parameters i.e.
there are a set of rules and constraint in any particular language, which help us to know
what we can and cannot do in the language and that’s lead us to an effective
communication. According to Chomsky (1960), when we consider other languages’
parameters, we learn the correct way to form sentences in English.