Embrace the Changes in English, Update your Language

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Embrace the Changes in English, Update your Language

The website Mental Floss recently published a blog post about four changes to the English language. The post received some passionate responses in the comments section. In a nutshell, the article explained these four changes to English:

1. The “ing” is becoming more common than the infinitive form. (“They started walking” instead of “They started to walk.”)

2. The use of “progressive” verbs is increasing. (“They were speaking” instead of “They spoke.”)

3. The words “going to,” “have to,” “need to,” and “want to” are being used more than other modal verbs (ought to, will, should).

4. The verb “get” is being used more and more with the passive voice. (“They got robbed” instead of “They were robbed.”)

Many people wrote comments at the end of the article and stated how they “hate” or “can’t stand” these changes. However, change in English is natural. It has been happening ever since the beginning of the language itself. See examples of Old English here. See examples of Middle English here.Update your language

These changes can be frustrating when they happen in our lifetime. However, it is important that we learn about and accept changes to English so that we can communicate with one another clearly. Here are some examples of other changes to the English language.

Traditional Rule:
Their should refer to plural nouns only.

History:
Most writers prior to the 18th century used “their” to refer to singular nouns, as in “Everyone has their own idea.” However, during the 18th and 19th centuries most grammarians decided that “their” should only be used to refer to plural nouns. As a result, the rules were changed.

Modern Usage:
Most grammar books and style guides today continue to instruct writers to use “their” with plural nouns. Even so, you will hear this rule being broken in casual speech because it gives us an easy way to create a genderless pronoun. (We don’t like to say, “Everyone has his own idea.”)

Traditional Rule:
Don’t end your sentences with prepositions.

History:
Where does this rule come from? (Or should I say, from where does this rule come?) According to the OxfordWords Blog, this rule originated in the 17th century when John Dryden criticized a piece of writing by Ben Jonson.

Modern Usage:
This rule is broken daily by most speakers, but people still seem to want to follow this rule when writing. Most grammarians agree that it is no longer necessary to follow this Latin-based rule because English is NOT Latin and should not have to follow its rules. This article does a nice job of explaining four reasons not to follow this rule.

Traditional Rule:
The pronunciation of “ask” is /ask/ not /aks/.

History:
In the 1300s, English speakers actually pronounced “ask” with the “k” first, as in “ax.”

Modern Usage:
Today, the standard pronunciation of this word is “ask”, but there are regions of the US where the standard is still “ax”. It is common for regions within the US to pronounce words differently, and sometimes certain areas retain the sounds that are more historically “correct.” Here is another example which shows how our pronunciation of vowels has shifted over time.

Language is power, and those who follow the established rules of English feel powerful for following the rules. The changes that occur over time are often caused by outside influences such as population shifts and technology. When people resist change, they are resisting the loss of power that comes with the change. It is understandable. However, some change is necessary if you wish to communicate effectively.

Think of language as software. In order to read this blog post, you are using computer software that has been programmed to communicate with the internet. If you do not regularly update your computer, tablet, or phone software, you will have problems connecting to the internet or running programs in the future. To continue to communicate in English, you occasionally need to update your language. The beauty of English is that it is flexible. This is one reason why it has become a world language.

For some fun, watch this video about the history of English. You’ll see how much it has changed over time. You can find the source content for the video here.

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