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How English became English

How English became English

'How English became English': a Talk by Professor Simon Horobin, Magdalen College, Oxford: Coffee Shop, Thursday January 19th

Oxford University Professor, Simon Horobin, addressed the problems and factors of an evolving language. He emphasised the importance of Latin grammar in the usage and meaning of English words, due to the fact that English, as a living language, is subject to change, influence and evolution. He evidenced this statement by referring to the Oxford Dictionary’s 2015 Word of the Year being an emoji rather that a word. Does this suggest that we are entering a new world where people compromise correct grammar for faster modes of communication? 

He informed us that a word’s lexis (or meaning) can be influenced by the bias of the lexicographer who defines it. Moreover, he showed that in new types of dictionary, such as the Urban Dictionary, words are created and defined by unproved sources and are infecting conversations near us with words such as ‘adorkable’, the combination of ‘adorable’ and ‘dork’ to describe someone. 

Professor Horobin evidenced examples of the frequently incorrect usage of grammar: such as the correct spelling of the word ‘supersede’ rather than more common mis-usage ‘supercede’; the phrase ‘compromised of’ which he described as being ‘always wrong’; the use of literally to describe metaphorical occurrences and the major supermarkets’ use of the incorrect phrase ‘ten items or less’ rather than the correct phrase: ‘ten items or fewer’ (which he assured us is used in Waitrose stores).

He posed the question – why are we so against the evolution of the English language? The language, which has evolved, in some cases, unrecognisably, since the times of great writers such as Milton, Spencer and Shakespeare.  

Report by Rory Betley, E Social 6.1

(Pictured below with Oliver Donaldson, F Social 6.2, who has just been offered a place at Oxford to read English and French)

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