English pp 210-223 | Cite as

Linguistic Change in Progress: Back to the Inner Circle

  • Jan Svartvik
  • Geoffrey Leech


If you ask native speakers of English how the language is changing today, after hesitation they will probably mention new vocabulary, or possibly some changes in pronunciation, but it is unlikely that grammar will appear on the agenda. This is probably for two reasons. First, most native English-speakers are ignorant about the grammar of their mother-tongue. Ask them about a grammatical problem, and they will dissolve into joking embarrassment. Second, grammar is an aspect of language that changes slowly, so it is popularly assumed to be unchanging, its rules set in stone. No one who has read this book, we are sure, will make that mistake. The grammar of standard English keeps changing, as it always has. However, within one generation there are likely to be few dramatic changes: what we can observe are changes of preference, of frequency. Interestingly, changes in recent English grammar tend to follow particular patterns, which we list as follows:
  • Grammaticalization — Items of vocabulary are gradually getting subsumed into grammatical forms, a well-known process of language change.

  • Colloquialization — The use of written grammar is tending to become more colloquial or informal, more like speech.

  • Americanization — The use of grammar in other countries (such as the United Kingdom) is tending to follow US usage.


Relative Clause Language Change Grammatical Form Sport Utility Vehicle Feminine Noun 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Svartvik
    • 1
  • Geoffrey Leech
    • 2
  1. 1.Lund UniversitySweden
  2. 2.Lancaster UniversityUK

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