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What The History of the English Language Reveals About Its Future

What will English sound like 50 years from now? Does the history of the English language contain clues about its future? Perhaps, and English purists are not happy about it.

A team of linguists from the University of York released a report last week that offers a glimpse into what some are calling a dystopian future: It’s the year 2066 and most of the UK’s regional dialects have disappeared. In London, spoken English has been heavily affected by foreign accents. For example, the “th” sound has been completely replaced by “f”, “d” or “v.” People say “fink” instead of “think” and “muvver” instead of “mother.”

Cue a rash of headlines and newspaper stories blaming foreigners for the imminent death of “the Queen’s English.” Like this one. And this one (“lazy” foreigners, no less!)

But wait … as it turns out, the term “The Queen’s English” (or “The King’s English,” depending on who’s on the throne) dates back to around the 16th century. Obviously, the English language has changed significantly since then. So who’s really speaking the “original” Queen’s English? At this point, not even the Queen herself.

Not only that, but the original “King’s English” was the result of just the type of shift that has “language purists” pulling their collective hair out (see “The Great Vowel Shift,” below.)

So, to the time machine! Let’s take a look at the history of the English language and a few of the many ways English has changed over time, along with what it might sound like in the future. Read more