Post-1989 lexical changes in the Slavonic languages

by Peter M. Hill

1. Language change

1.1 Introduction

I use the term ‘language change’ even though, according to Andersen, we should avoid the expression: ‘the word “change” has come to be more of a liability than an asset’ (1989, 11). According to Andersen we should instead speak of ‘innovations’. Normally an innovation arises and then exists side-by-side with a traditional form until the latter disappears and only the innovation remains. The language has not actually ‘changed’. James Milroy (2003) reminds us that languages are not organisms and therefore they cannot change as organisms change: what happens is that different speakers use variant forms, and in some cases the same speaker uses variant forms even within the same conversation. There may come a time when no one uses certain forms any more and then we can say that there has been a ‘change’. Language changes not only spontaneously. Language changes can be engineered by language planning. Many linguists have expressed doubts whether it is possible to change people’s speech habits by administrative means but the examples adduced e.g. by Ernst Jahr (1989) show that even radical changes can be effected by language planning.

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