English Around Time By Samuel Johnson

829 Words4 Pages
English Across Time Natalie Trang
11ENL02 TRA0130

Across time, many people have advocated for the stabilisation of the English language. Samuel Johnson was a lexicographer who dedicated his life to doing so. He published his dictionary in 1755, in an effort to prescribe the use of the London dialect of English. However, his aims were not met and people continued to speak in their various dialects. What Samuel Johnson did not expect was the unstoppable way in which language evolves. Neither did he realise the timeframe required for
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The people of England in Johnson’s time lived segregated lives in their various social classes. The royals would have had a use for words that the lower-class may never have even heard of. It would be difficult to create one version of English that was current and able to accommodate all the speakers. The needs of its speakers direct the change in a language. Dr. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was unable to encapsulate everything that the speakers wanted to express, so they continued to mould the English language to suit them.

Changes in a language require time for its users to learn how to incorporate it into daily speech and spread it. For Dr. Johnson’s version to become the only version of English, it would require many speakers to make changes in their speech and writing habits. Before this happened though, the Industrial revolution came about and brought with it major developments in people’s lives. Technical words such as ‘cylindrical steam press’ were invented to describe the newly developed technology. These additions to the speakers’ lexicons were not limited to technology. The industrial revolution increased trade and with this, the English borrowed words, such as ‘crinoline’, a stiffened petticoat. Along with neologisms, the semantic meanings of words also broadened in order to cover new uses. One such word was vacuum, which meant ‘devoid of matter’, and later also came to mean ‘a machine that sucks up
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