Pidginisation and Creolisation

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When French became the new language of parliament in England in 1066, it was a lingua franca: the vernacular was still English, but in order to communicate, people spoke French, or sometimes Latin.

Much later, during the colonial period, lingua francas were needed again; this time to for communication between the colonisers and the locals.

The main difference between these two scenarios is that in the second, a pidgin was created. A pidgin is a language used primarily for communication between two groups with no common language.

It is thought that the reason behind this is that there were two languages involved after the Norman conquest (French and English), whereas in order to create a pidgin, three languages are needed. Because of the nature of many countries being colonised at the time, there were often three languages: English, and two local dialects. This is essential, because the locals must communicate in the pidgin in order to understand one another. Continue reading

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To the Only Good Dad in Literature!

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Dads, I realised as I sat down to write this post, are not well represented in literature.

Firstly, literature has an overwhelming number of orphaned children (Jane Eyre, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Great Expectations, Harry Potter), or otherwise absent fathers (Narnia).

Even ignoring these father figures, we are faced with a plethora of dads who frankly fail in their positions as parents. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse sees a strange, manic father who embarrasses his children – and was based upon Woolf’s own father. In Wharton’s The Custom of the Country we see Undine’s doting father unwittingly help to turn his daughter into the shallow, materialistic, morally corrupt woman we see at the end of the novel. Do not even get me started on Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials. Continue reading

Blogging About Books

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Reading is an amazing thing. Every book every written is made up of the same 26 letters and a small number of punctuation marks, and yet each touches us in a different way. We lose ourselves in books, allow our minds to be transported, come to know the characters as dear friends. 

Reading allows an escape in a way few other things can, because it allows respite from this world; it allows us to escape for the time that book is in our hands. Thought provoking, emotional, completely engrossing, books are so important.

 

Detail - The Long Room - The Old Library, Trin...

Which is why it’s difficult to write blog posts on books. Continue reading

Le Verlan: Backslang

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As I am currently living in France, I thought writing about French would be more topical.

Verlan is a form of French slang, like Cockney Rhyming Slang is a form of British slang. It is used commonly in language by youths.

The concept of verlan is creating new words by swapping the syllables of the original word, meaning the new word is the inverse of the original.

In fact, verlan is an example of itself:

The French for ‘inverse’ is l’envers. Taking the two syllables of the word, pronounced lan and ver and inverting them, the word verlan is created. Continue reading

Anglophonism’s First Blogiversary: A Full Circle

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Not only have I returned to the same job, in the same area in which I started blogging; but I’m sitting in the exact seat that I wrote my first ever post in.

(This, incidentally, is also the cause of my recent silence. As I was travelling and setting in for the last week, I have had no internet – but I’ve still been writing!)

And now, here I am. It’s one year later, I’ve done a full circle, and I’m writing my 99th blog post.

One year older, 15,000 views later, and with a year of experience under my belt and no less passionate about English than I was 365 days ago. 

When I sat down to write that first post, it could have gone either way. Keeping blog is a commitment, but it could have easily fizzled out in a few months. I’m glad I managed to stick at it, because I learned a lot from it.

As well as taking notes in lectures, I actively engaged with my studies. I learned how to explain things so they’re easily understood and (hopefully) interesting.

As well as learning about the English language and passing on tidbits of this knowledge, I learnt about committing to a blog; but also about putting it to one side when more important things (like life-changing exams) come along.

English: Rhubarb pie slice served a la mode at...

Oops – now I’ve made myself hungry!

I was right in that first post, when I said that blogging is egotistical. It revolves around wish for others to read what you have to say; to like and to comment. Anything that’s egotistical, however, comes with a large slice of humble pie. Whether it’s a misplaced apostrophe in a post published without a proof-read, or a rant published too hastily, the egotistical side of the blogging coin has another side.

Keeping a blog has been incredibly beneficial to me, I’ve gained a lot from it, and I hope you have enjoyed it too – and will continue to do so!

Books Can Transcend Gender

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I recently checked out the Book Swap shelves in my work, and saw On Beauty by Zadie Smith. It’s a book I’ve always wanted to read, but have never gotten around to reading. So, I picked it up.

A colleague of mine read the blurb, out of interest, and came to the conclusion that, “it looks good; just a bit too girlie for me”.

Cover of "On Beauty"

Pink? Must by for girls.

Stop right there.

When it comes to good fiction, there’s no such thing as ‘girlie’. Yes, some authors aim their writing towards men (Lee Childs, Dan Brown) and some at women (Jodi Picoult, Maeve Binchie). But then you get past the take-your-brain-out trashy fiction (don’t lie, you know they are), books transcend gender. Continue reading

Class, Language and Style Shifting – Part 2: The Great Vowel Shift

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Linguists in the past had a bit of a knack for giving linguistic phenomena dramatic names. I think The Great Vowel Shift is a wonderful example of this.

Contrary to what the name suggests, The Great Vowel Shift did not occur over night, but over a number of decades. Linguistic changes rarely happen quickly, because people’s language tends to stabilise when they’re in their early twenties, meaning that today’s 80 year-olds use the norms of language of 60 years ago. A form needs to be around for a long time for the whole of a speech community to use it.

Apologies, I’m digressing.

In Class, Language and Style Shifting – Part 1, I spoke about the plague. I didn’t actually speak about language though. I simply described the effects the plague had on the United Kingdom (which were rather momentous). Reading medieval poetry, such as Langland or Chaucer, we sometimes see references to the plague; in particular, labour shortages and the result of these. Continue reading

P is for Poncho

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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

Poncho

  /ˈpɒntʃoʊ/

Noun:

1. A blanket-like cloak with a hole in the center to admit the head, originating in South America, now often worn as a raincoat.

Etymology:

1717; from American Spanish; from Araucanian pontho; ‘woolen material’. Perhaps influenced by Spanish poncho, variant of pocho;discoloured fabric’

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Class, Language and Style Shifting – Part 1: The Plague

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The class we are in (working, middle, upper class, etc.) influences our language so much that the most obvious way of distinguishing someone’s class is by listening to their accent.

Style shifting is something everyone does which means that they use more standard forms when they are in formal situations, and more vernacular forms when they are in casual situations.

These two areas of language are really interesting, but also really vast; so, I thought I’d split it up into a number of posts.

Today post? How these things came to be in the first place, which was, interestingly, due to the plague. Continue reading

And I’m Just, Like, Writing a Blog Post, Okay?

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The original lexical meaning of the word just was to mean ‘deserved’; as in:

He got his just reward

… And in other such idioms.

Today, however, it has become a discourse marker. A discourse marker is a word which has a function at a discourse (i.e. conversational) level, not within a sentence or clause.

For example, compare the use of the word like in the following examples

  1. I like chocolate
  2. My chocolate is like your chocolate, only yummier
  3. And I was like, ‘Oh, my God! This chocolate is amazing’
  4. And I, like, really, enjoyed eating it.

In number 1, we see the word like being used with it’s own lexical meaning, indicating that you find something pleasurable or agreeable.

As used in 2, like indicates that something is similar to something else.

As used in 3, it is an introducer of dialogue (You can read a separate a post on quotative verbs here).

As used in 4, however, it seems to have little function alone; on a conversational level, however, it suggests the speaker’s tone, their meaning. Indeed, they are communicating more than they are saying on a surface level.

Continue reading