Technologies of communication

Thomas Kohnen and Christian Mair

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Technologies of communication

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics



A wave of successive innovations such as writing, the printing press, and modern mass media have extended the range of human communication beyond the “technologies” associated with face-to-face interaction. This article examines the impact of communication technologies on the history of English. Most diachronic work on English is based on the assumption that linguistic innovations, particularly in the the areas of phonology and grammar, typically start in spontaneous speech before spreading into writing, with a time lag. This implies that for most of the recorded history of English, the primary data for the study of change are lost and the best possible approximation needs to be re-constructed from available written sources. This article explores whether this assumption holds true to a comparable extent for all periods in the history of English or whether it is subject to diachronic change itself.

Keywords: history; English; linguistic innovations; phonology; linguistics; grammar; writing; diachronic change; communication technologies; genre

Article.  11109 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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