Free «Changing and Mutating Word» Essay

Changing and Mutating Word

With time, like everything else in the world, animals, humans, and technology, societies, culture and the biggest part of any culture, its language go through evolutionary change. How does language change? Though its words, where either new words enter into the language, or the existing words change their meaning. Surprising as it is, it is quite common for words to take on different meanings with the gradual passage of time. An example of such a changing or mutating word is ‘affection’. From meaning any type of emotion to only meaning fondness and love, affection has gone through an evolution and has changed its meaning.

Affection is a very common word and during our everyday conservation we so often come to use it to express our fondness or love for anyone. But seldom do we use it for any emotion generally. Affection is one type of emotion that we have for another person. We can say we live in the time, where we found the evolved version of affection and by the time we got to use it in our modern language, it had already gone through the change. Taking a closer look at the word we find that the meaning of the word affection has narrowed, from broad scope to a specified one and from meaning something general to meaning something rather general. Although, the context, broadly speaking, is the same, as both the meanings of the word mean emotion, the evolved meaning only specifies the type of emotion.

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So how did the word affection come to change? There are many types of changes that have occurred to various different words in the English language making them go through a change referred to as ‘semantic change’ such as shift, generalization, specialization, or meaninglessness. Shift occurs when the meaning of the word enhances or contracts or in the case of pejoration and amelioration, the meaning of the word becomes uglier or better in sense. Generalization occurs when a meaning of the word increases its scope and brings a lot of similar concepts under one roof. The change that occurred with the word affection is ‘specialization’ (Henning 12). Specialization refers to the change that makes the meaning of the word narrower than it was before. A branch of specialization is ‘contextual specialization’ that very well explains the new meaning of the word affection.  Contextual specialization of a word occurs when two similar meaning words are found to coincide often in spoken or written language. With the pressure exerted from other similar or paired words, a word takes the course of change, as did affection with the pressure from the word emotion or feeling.

When exactly did specialization occur? Logically speaking and practically speaking based on observation, the ancient word, life was simple with few ornaments, inventions and discoveries. Owing to that fact, the people of the ancient times had fewer words in their vocabulary (Fitch 121). The Anglo Saxons were the first ones to compile a large pool of vocabulary to their language some 1500 years ago (Katamba 36). But the words in their language had broad senses and meanings. With time, and the advent of many inventions and the advancement of the human civilizations, more words sprung up and caused overlapping and thus specialization occurred. Owing to specialization, now the English vocabulary constitutes around five hundred thousand words that define and elaborate each of its elements and concepts. More changes are yet to come however, which only makes this process of semantic change for words like affection, a natural process nonetheless and not because of a person, a culture, a society or a generation.

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