15 September 2011
The English of 1200 years ago is impossible for an untutored ear to understand. Those who wrote Beowulf down around the turn of the first millenium would have been unable to read Chaucer, just 300 years later. But with the coming of printing, and widespread prose literacy, change slowed. And in the seventeenth century, English solidified.
For 500 years, as Kate put it, the written tail has wagged the spoken dog.
Kate suggests that change is speeding up again, fueled by the number of speakers for whom English is not a mother tongue, and by social media. Once again, people are using language to create community and express identity.