Download A History of the English Language by N. F. Blake (auth.) PDF

By N. F. Blake (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0333609840

ISBN-13: 9780333609842

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Additional resources for A History of the English Language

Example text

Modern English, on the other hand, is an analytic language in which most inflections have either disappeared or have ceased to be important for distinguishing meaning. Although we still say He comes, the final -s is not significant because it is obligatory to include the subject He and because there is no other form **He come with which it could be confused. If we all said and wrote **He come instead of He comes, there would be no confusion and no loss of meaning. After all, in the preterite we are perfectly happy to say He came where the verb has the same form in the third-person singular as in all the other persons.

This was a list of under a thousand words developed in the 1930s which were thought adequate for all day-to-day purposes. But no educated person would dream of restricting their writing or conversation to such a basic vocabulary, and all literature, particularly in its written form, encourages the development of new vocabulary. Equally the onset of new technologies and the production of new machines and labour-saving devices create the need for an enlarged vocabulary. Naturally at the other end, as it were, many words are no longer needed because what they 38 A History of the English Language expressed has been superseded.

There are, however, some exceptions to this general principle. If two consonants are difficult to articulate together, then another may be inserted to ease the transition from one to the other. The verb dream has as its past tense the form dreamt (or dreamed). But this word is pronounced as if there is a group Impt/ because the transition from the nasal Iml to alveolar It I is difficult to articulate easily. This development can often follow the fall of a vowel sound which allows the two consonant sounds to occur together.

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