Language is changing, like it or not.

langauge picAll languages change over time, and vary from place to place. They may change as a result of social or political pressures, such as invasion, colonisation and immigration. New vocabulary is required for the latest inventions, such as transport, domestic . A language can also change by less obvious means.
Language also changes very subtly whenever speakers come into contact with each other. No two individuals speak identically: people from different geographical places clearly speak differently, but even within the same small community there are variations according to a speaker’s age, gender, ethnicity and social and educational background. Through our interactions with these different speakers, we encounter new words, expressions and pronunciations and integrate them into our own speech. Even if your family has lived in the same area for generations, you can probably identify a number of differences between the language you use and the way your grandparents speak. Every successive generation makes its own small contribution to language change and when sufficient time has elapsed the impact of these changes becomes more obvious.

Attitudes to language change
“some method should be thought on for ascertaining and fixing our language for ever (…) it is better a language should not be wholly perfect, than that it should be perpetually changing”
Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, wrote these words in 1712. They express a sentiment we still hear today — the idea that language should be fixed forever, frozen in time, and protected from the ravages of fashion and social trends. Language change is almost always perceived as a negative thing. During the eighteenth century, Swift and many other influential figures felt the English language was in a state of serious decline and that a national institution, such as existed in France and Italy, should be created to establish rules and prevent further decay. Even today we hear people complaining about a supposed lack of ‘standards’ in spoken and written English. New words and expressions, innovative pronunciations and changes in grammar are derided, and are often considered inferior. Yet because of its adaptability and durability, English has evolved into an incredibly versatile and modern language, retaining a recognisable link to its past.

Change can be a good thing
Most contemporary linguistic commentators accept that change in language, like change in society, is an unavoidable process — occasionally regrettable, but more often a means of refreshing and reinvigorating a language, providing alternatives that allow extremely subtle differences of expression. Certainly the academies established in France and Italy have had little success in preventing change in French or Italian, and perhaps the gradual shift in opinion of our most famous lexicographer, Dr Johnson, is instructive. A contemporary of Swift, Dr Johnson, wrote in 1747 of his desire to produce a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed and its purity preserved, but on completing the project ten years later he acknowledges in his introduction that:
“Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify”.
Johnson clearly realised that any attempt to fix the language was futile. Like it or not, language is always changing and English will continue to do so in many creative and — to some perhaps — frustrating ways

Types of Change:

Lexical Change
“ we couldn’t listen to the latest tunes because we hadn’t a wireless ”
From the word wireless, we would probably assume this statement was made by an older person, as radio is now the more common term. Lexical change refers to a change in the meaning or use of a word, or a generational shift in preference for one word or phrase over another. Lexical change is probably the most frequent type of language change and certainly the easiest to observe. For instance, we can make confident assertions about the age of a speaker who uses the word courting to mean “going out with”, or one who uses the adjective fit to describe someone they find attractive.
New vocabulary or changes in fashionable usage spread rapidly and evenly across the country due to our sophisticated communication links. Intriguingly, in the case of wireless, the word has experienced something of a revival. If you hear the word wireless used by a younger speaker, they are almost certainly using it as an adjective rather than a noun and referring to wireless technology, from WAP phones to blackberries and laptops. This illustrates perfectly how words can virtually disappear or gradually shift in meaning and usage

Phonological Change
Many older speakers in the UK would pronounce a sound in between the initial consonant and vowel of a word like tune or dune — so that they sound like ‘tyoon’ and ‘dyoon’ respectively. Younger speakers are far more likely to blend the consonant and sounds into a and sound respectively. Thus the word tune might sound something like ‘choon’ and the word dune might be pronounced like June.
Changes big and small
Phonological change — changes in pronunciation can come in a variety of forms. Some changes merely affect the way a single word is pronounced: older speakers across the UK tend to stress the first syllable in the word controversy, for instance, while younger speakers increasingly place the main stress on the second syllable, controversy. In other cases, the pronunciation of a particular vowel sound or consonant sound changes gradually across successive generations and thus has an impact on a large group of words. A change in pronunciation might initially take place only in one particular geographic location and remain local. Or it may over time spread nationally and thus affect all varieties of English.

Grammatical Change
“ we couldn’t listen to the latest tunes because we hadn’t a wireless ”
For some people, the construction we hadn’t a wireless might sound unusual. Younger speakers in many parts of the UK are nowadays far more likely to say we hadn’t got a radio or we didn’t have a radio. This is an example of grammatical change — a subtle process and not always obvious to listeners. Because grammatical change appears to spread more slowly than lexical change, older, more conservative forms of speech might sometimes remain present in some regional dialects, but not in others. The use of the second person pronouns thou, thee, thy and thine, for instance, sound old-fashioned to most of us, but are still heard in parts of northern England — although even there they are becoming increasingly associated with older speakers.

Source: The British Library.