Four things are inevitable: death, taxes, the eventual heat-death of the universe, and also language change. Every (living) languages are constantly in a state of flux, at every levels of the etymological system. Meanings change, new structures come into being and old ones die out, words space born and also die and also pronunciations change. And also no one, that seems, is happy about it. Brand-new linguistic creates tend to be the source of endless vitriol and argument, and also language users love constructing rules the have much more to execute with social norms than linguistic reality. Rules the linguists create, which effort to version the means language is used, are dubbed “descriptive”, while rules the non-linguists create, which effort to indicate how they believe language should be used, are dubbed “prescriptive”. I’m not going to talk that much an ext about that here; if you’re interested, Language Log and Language Hippie both talk about the worry at length. The reason that I carry this up is the prescriptive rules have tendency to donate older forms. (An occasionally forms from various other languages. That entirety “don’t split an infinitive” thing? Based on Latin. English speakers have actually been happily dividing infinitives because the 13th century, and I imagine we’ll proceed to boldly split them for centuries come come.) over there is, however, one glaring exception: the entirety vs. debate.

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In a way, it’s kinda like Theseus’ paradox or Abe Lincoln’s axe. If you replace all the sound in a indigenous one through one, that is the same word in ~ the end of the process as it remained in the beginning?Historically, it’s , the homophone of the chopping tool pictured above, that has precedence. Let’s take a look at the Oxford English Dictionary’s take it on the background of the word, shall we?

The original lengthy á provided regularly the middle English (Kentish) ōxi ; however elsewhere was shortened prior to the 2 consonants, providing Middle English a , and, in part dialects, e . The an outcome of these vowel changes, and of the Old English metathesis asc- , acs- , was that middle English had the varieties ōx , ax , ex , questioning , esk , ash , esh , ass , ess . The true representative the the orig. áscian was the s.w. And w.midl. Ash , esh , additionally written esse (compare æsce ash n.1, wæsc(e)an wash n.), currently quite lost. Acsian, axian, survived inax, under to nearly 1600 the continuous literary form, and also still used anywhere in midl. And also southern dialects, though supplanted in conventional English by ask, initially the northern form. Already in 15th cent. The last was diminished dialectally to asse, past tense ast, still current dialectally.*

So, to be the continuous literary type (i.e. The one friend would have actually been taught to to speak in college if you were lucky enough to have gone come school) till the 1600 or so? Ok, so, if older develops are better, than that must be the “right” one. Right? Well, let’s view what Urban dictionary has to say ~ above the matter, due to the fact that that has tendency to be a pretty good litmus test of language attitudes.

“What retards say once they don’t know how to pronounce the word ask.” — User marcotte on city Dictionary, height definition

Oh. Sorry, Chaucer, however I’m walk to have to inform you that you to be a retard who didn’t know just how to pronounce words ask. Let’s unpack what’s walking on right here a small bit, shall we? There’s clearly a disconnect in between the etymological facts and also language attitudes.

Facts: these two creates have both existed for centuries, and also was taken into consideration the “correct” type for much of that time.Language attitude: is not just “wrong”, it mirrors negatively on those human being who use it, making castle sound less intelligent and also less educated.

This is most likely (at least in America) tangled in with the fact that is a mite of afri American English. Also within the african American community, the kind is stigmatized. Oprah, for example, who regularly uses markers of afri American English (especially once speaking with various other African Americans) almost never offers for . For this reason the idea the is the wrong type and that is exactly is based upon a social building and construction of how an intelligent, education individual should speak. It has actually nothing to carry out with the linguistic qualities of words itself. (For a really interesting discussion of how knowledge of linguistic creates is gained by children and the relationship between that and animated films, see Lippi-Green’s thing “Teaching kids to discriminate” from English with an Accent: Language ideology and discrimination in the joined States here.)

Now, the interesting thing about these creates is the they both have phonological pressures pushing English speakers in the direction of using them. That’s due to the fact that has a special ar in English phonotactics. In general, you want the sounds that are the many sonorant nearer the facility of a syllable. And also is an ext sonorant than , so that seems like should be the favored form. But, favor I said, is special. In “special”, for example, it come at the very beginning of the word, before the less-sonorant

. And also all the really long syllables in English, choose “strengths”, have actually ~ above the end. For this reason the special status of seems to favor . The truth that each type can be modeled perfectly well based on our knowledge of the means English words are formed helps to explain why both forms proceed to be proactively used, even centuries after they emerged. And, who knows? We might decide the is the “correct” form again in one more hundred year or so. Shot and store that in psychic the following time girlfriend talk about the right and also wrong means to say something.

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* “ask, v.”. OED Online. December 2012. Oxford university Press. 12 February 2013 http://www.oed.com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/view/Entry/11507>.