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English as a Moving Target


English as a moving target: English is a West Germanic language that borrows its alphabet from Latin, adding three characters J, U, and W. During the Norman Conquest of England the French brought over a variation of Latin that morphed into English.  Languages morph over time and words take on other meanings.  For example, consider the common phrase Santa Claus. It began as “Sant Herr Hiclaes” in Dutch, transforming to “Santerclaes”, and eventually became the English “Santa Clause” today (McWhorter The Power of Babel, page 29).   John Dryden admitted to translating his works to Latin to get the syntax to flow smoother (Lynch, 36).  The two types of people who study are classified as prescriptive grammar and descriptive grammar. Scholars describe Samuel Johnson, the writer of A Dictionary of the English Language, as a descriptive grammar lexicographer.  He realized there could be no establishment that could enforce grammar.  Printers at the time noted that they could sell to more people their books if there was a standard way of speaking. Later, the success of The Oxford English dictionary was based because there were correspondence between the editors and the public. Today is no different. French President Sarkozy received a concerned note saying that the recipient was worried that French was on a downward spiral linguistically and Sarkozy should do something (Greene). China has the “Law of the People's Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese” that requires media personal and broadcasters a certain level of speaking proficiency. This ban has been lifted as of December 24th 2011. Linguists believe that all languages are related.  Instead of being different “languages”, they are dialects of one common language that originated from the Persian Gulf.

Task Discussion