The Effects of Lexical and Semantic Change on Modern English

Essay by DPLA, March 2003

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Lexical and Semantic Change on Modern English

Language develops and adapts to different situations, and changes to solve various communication problems and barriers, and is therefore descriptive as opposed to prescriptive. Lexical and Semantic change have affected our language enormously, with new words being introduced and older words either gaining new meanings or disappearing all together from the language.

There are many ways that lexical and semantic development has occurred. In lexical development, new words have been introduced. One person who introduced a large amount of new words to the English Language was William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Shakespeare introduced words such as 'bubble' to the English language.

The majority of words that enter the language are Nonces, words that are only temporary and are not assimilated into the language, which are used to either play on an event or solve a communication problem. The media can ultimately affect whether a nonce may enter into a dictionary.

This is because, should the media start using such a word, the word is exposed to more people via television, radio, newspapers and magazines.

The media also supplies us with numerous amounts of eponyms, such as 'Thatcherism' and 'Blairism' while some eponyms come from the name of an object, which in turned is named after its inventor, 'leotard' and 'plimsoll line' are examples of this.

The English language is also influenced by British life. This is because of foreign influences, such as product and brand names, for example; 'Honda', 'Vodka', 'Toshiba', and 'Citrëon'. Other words may be borrowed from other languages; 'baguette', 'larger', 'karaoke'. American culture is increasingly reflected in the use of Americanisms in the English language.

The use of prefixes and suffixes has also created numerous neologisms such as 'superpower', 'multimedia', 'Beetlemania', 'cafeteria' for example. The suffix 'ism' is now commonly used to...