In the latest edition of Overseas, former editor Miranda Moore asks if the increasing use of the glottal stop or a dropped 't' in speech means we're lazy, or is it just part of the evolution of language?
Emma Thompson's visit to her former secondary school a few years ago launched a widespread debate in the UK media about young people's so-called 'lazy' use of the English language. The British actor told pupils how “sloppy” language drives her “insane” and warned that using slang made them “sound stupid”. Of course, this attitude is nothing new – according to the renowned British linguist David Crystal it goes back 100s of years. Most of us have been chastised in our youth for 'incorrect' usage, even if we go on to do the same to our own children in later life.
At times, The Telegraph seems to have waged its own private war against linguistic change, with columnists decrying a “decline in proper language skills” and bemoaning “that ghastly estuary sludge”, characterised by the glottal stop and intrusive 'r' (as in 'drawring'). Even June Brown, known for playing cockney treasure Dot Cotton in the long-running soap EastEnders, has described Estuary English as “slovenly speech”.
Yet language change is as old as language itself; 'wench' once referred to a girl, 'flirt' meant 'to flick away' and daughter (like other 'gh' words) had a guttural 'kh' sound in the middle. So where does this idea of 'correct' versus 'lazy' usage come from? According to the Dutch linguist Anne-Sophie Ghyselen, it is bound up with Victorian ideas of decorum and 'civilised' behaviour. “Language standardisation forms part of a broader civilising process during which more strictly regulated manners came into fashion… stimulated by the idea that ‘uncivilised behaviour’ results in shame.”
... Read the full article here. Turn to page 16.