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Loss of diversity and the English language

Updated Friday, 4th July 2014
Dr Daniel Allington thinks loss of diversity has impacted on the development of the English Language the most

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In the UK, the most dramatic change in the English language has been its loss of diversity. A century ago there was a huge range of local dialects, but because most people lived out their lives within ten miles of where they were born, it didn’t matter if the words you used weren’t understood by someone who came from 100 miles away.
Now, due to our greater mobility, regional dialects have become more similar to each other: they have fewer speakers and people are much more exposed to language from other parts of the country.
Today, all that remains of the old richness of vocabulary are a few local words that people might not recognise outside the region, and the typical accent associated with them. This loss mirrors what’s happening globally: according to UNESCO , around 2,500 languages are at risk of extinction.
My father, who was born in Yorkshire but left it as a young child, sometimes uses dialect forms jokingly – “shoon” as the plural of “shoe”, or “gradely” to mean something like “excellent”. These are isolated remnants that people pull out from time to time as a way of saying, “I remember my roots”.



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