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

UK Border Agency Crashes Wedding

They say love transcends language, but when you have to have an interpreter to exchange your wedding vows,  something’s not quite right. That was the opinion of the UK Border Agency as they observed the July 26 “wedding” of Subhani Ahmed, a 33-year-old Pakistani man, and a 35-year-old Slovakian woman.

The two were getting married as an attempt to circumvent UK immigration laws. However, officers working on Operation Relinquish, a government crackdown on sham marriages, were in the audience watching as the two pledged their eternal love for each other –  via an interpreter.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency told the Yorkshire Post:

“The couple, who relied on an interpreter at their wedding to exchange vows and understand the registrar, were unaware of the presence of officers from the UK Border agency’s immigration crime team.”

Read more

Language Classes For Immigrants

Everybody wants immigrants in the UK to learn English, but budget cuts are about to make it much more difficult for them to do so. According to the Independent, almost 80,000 people in the UK will soon lose access to free English classes. To help trim the budget, free English classes are to be reserved for active job seekers. Everyone else will have to pitch in at least half the cost of the classes, which can cost up to £1,000 per year, money that in many cases simply isn’t there.

The requirement that immigrants be on “active benefits” to access free classes means that women will bear the brunt of the cuts. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the Independent:

“Women are the most likely not to be on active benefits and are therefore the most likely to be affected by this policy. The Government says everybody has the right to integrate, but it is impossible to integrate if one can’t speak English. To ignore the needs of the most vulnerable people in society makes a mockery of the Big Society rhetoric.”

Having a population of women who are isolated and completely dependent on their husbands and children to interact with outside world creates its own problems, as well. Plus, many of these women would prefer to work outside the home, but of course they need to learn English to do so. Sure, some people can teach themselves a new language on their own, from books and TV shows, but many others need the structure and guidance found in a classroom setting. Read more