By N. F. Blake (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the English Language
The emphasis that linguistics has put on speech has undermined the pre-eminent position of the standard, which is essentially a written variety. The growing emphasis on encouraging people to use their own variety of language for communicative and educational purposes so that those who have been taught the standard are not automatically given a privileged position because of their language has given these varieties greater exposure and standing. Local radio and television encourage the use of their own local varieties of English in order to develop a group identity locally and to distance themselves from the suffocating embrace of the south-east.
Up to a point this may be little more than snobbery, but whatever it might be called there is no denying the significance it has had for language development and change. For example, the use of the plural form of the second person of the personal pronoun you as the polite form may have been motivated by the distinction between tu and vous in French; and this use of the plural ultimately led to the fall of the singular thou form in English. The role of French may be compared 36 A History of the English Language with other languages with less cultural status in England and elsewhere.
But the 32 A History of the English Language more educated you are and the larger the vocabulary you have, the more likely you are to increase the Latinate section of your language. During the previous paragraphs reference has been made in passing to some influences which have promoted change in English, but it is now time to review these more systematically. One important aspect of Britain is that it is a small island and thus has clearly defined boundaries. The island was populated by the Celts when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, though many of them may also have spoken a form of Latin.
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