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Nik Taylor wrote:

>  In comparison,
> English of 15 years ago has NO noticeable differences.  There may be a
> few statistical differences, e.g., in dialects with rhotic/nonrhotic
> variation, the percentage of rhotic uses may have changed slightly, but
> nothing that would be immediately obvious.

Oh, I'm not so sure of that.  There are a number of things going on in
the language at subtle levels that could have profound changes.  There
was a survey by William Labov which I've mentioned on this list before
that illustrates an American "Great Vowel Shift" happening right now
in the Northern industrial states from, say, Pennsylvania all the way through
to Illinois. (see: <http://www.ling.upenn.edu/phono_atlas/ICSLP4.html> )
This process has apparently been very rapidly accelerating in the most
recent generation, if you go look at the data for the 14 year olds
there.  Strangely, a different and in some ways opposite shift is occuring
in Southern states simultaneously.

And that's just phonological.  Recent trends to using degendered language
has also increased in part because it's linked to trends like "politically
correct" language, but also because of historical usages such as "they"
in precisely that fashion.  Then you get phenomena like the fact that
English speakers seem to feel a distinct need for a second person plural
pronoun, and so because of that, phrasal pronouns like "you guys" or
now morphologically simplex forms like "y'all" are gaining ground almost
daily.  (As for where I live, I don't know *anyone* who would use just "you"
in casual circumstances;  "you all" or "y'all" or "you guys" are all the highly
preferred forms).

By the same measure, people (or at least so I've noticed) are more and more
using the morphological simple-past of verbs with some sort of word like "yet"
to indicate what used to be solely the province of the present perfect.  So,
for example, I've heard "Did you do you homework yet?" as opposed to "Have
you done your homework [yet]?" (where the "yet" is mandatory in the first,
but not in the second).

None of these are the vast, sweeping changes that you describe for
those Australian languages, but they are, I think, quite noticeable. (At least,
some of these things have immediately leaped out at me before.)

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Tom Wier <[log in to unmask]>
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Website: <http://www.angelfire.com/tx/eclectorium/>
"Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and
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spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson
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