On Language Change

Language lamenters mostly haven’t understood how language works. In language change, new variants grow up alongside existing ones, often as stylistic alternatives. (Jean Aitchison, ‘Why do purists grumble so much? ‘Evening Standard’ 27 April 2004)

The justification for linguistic conventions is a pragmatic one. When they appear to be under threat, it does not mean that civilization is falling apart. Rather, the existing conventions are being superseded by new ones. (Henry Hitchngs, ‘The Language Wars: A History of Proper English’)

Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is change
With-inne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge

Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages. (Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘Troilus and Criseyde’)

And certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that whiche was vsed and spoken whan I was borne. (William Caxton)