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Some problems and processes in language change

Sh. A. Kuldasheva teacher

 Uzbekistan State World Language University,

Tashkent, Uzbekistan


There are many small and large nations in the world. They come into contact in different social, economic, political and cultural fields. Their languages and dialects influence each other in the process of historical development. Due to the geographical, territorial and many other reasons they can converge or diverge with each other. The first process where languages congregate with each other is called the convergence of the languages. The second process where the languages separate with each other is called divergence. This article deals with the problems of divergence and convergence as main trends in language development. Divergence and convergence occur in opposite directions and this happens in different times with different force, speed and coverage. They can replace each other in the historical process, but it is impossible to say that in the development of the language only one of the directions is observed [B. L. Anderson, F. Kortlandt; S. Brown, S. Attardo].

Usually divergence includes the process of the development of one language or relative languages that move away from the center that is the parent language. Initially the directions of such developments depend on the social – historical conditions. The increasing number of people may result on the ethnic migrations of the relative nations to this or that territory. They are vitally important but the directions of migration may not fit with each other. And this, in its turn, may lead to the geographical divisions. The relative ethnic groups or different parts of one ethnic group may be divided as the result of living in the territories of different countries. The means of communication in different society can be relative languages that are genetically similar with each other. Such languages can perform the task of the equal or unequal languages in the communication [1, p. 19].

Ordinarily, in such conditions different social status that is the use of the language in various conditions and the area of the use of such languages can be large or small languages and dialects. They play a leading role in the process of communication. In this society the rarely spoken languages give their place to the dialects that are more prestigious than they are. And sometimes they can disappear at all. Each ethnic group can communicate with relative or irrelative language in the borders of their usage. And this may lead, in its turn, to noticeable changes of the phonetic and grammatical structures, in the vocabulary system of the language and dialects. The situation of one ethnic group in a certain territory and their genetic distribution from one general parent language shows that languages are in relative relations with each other. The initial point of the process of divergence is the formation of some independent languages that construct a language family. The relative languages will be demonstrated as the ancestry of their parent language that was a general source. The process of divergence led to the division of the Common Germanic (Ancient German, or Proto-German) languages that were real in the first centuries AD. According to the scholars that study genetic typology, in the middle of the first millennium the following languages were isolated from Common Germanic language as the mid-parent languages. They are: Proto-Northern Germanic languages; Proto-Eastern Germanic languages; Proto-Western Germanic languages. To the end of the first millennium in the result of the spreading the nations speaking these languages Common Germanic language features disappeared.

The Northern Germanic language was the first to have been separated when the speakers of this language moved to Scandinavia. And the result of this was the formation of the oppositions of Northern Germanic and Southern Germanic Languages. Then the movement of Goths to the upper parts of Oder and Visla from Scandinavia brought to the oppositions among three tribal unions on the grounds of influence and privileges. The constant wars among the nations lived in the borders of the territories of Eastern Germanic, Western Germanic and Southern Germanic language speaking tribal unions brought to the formation of the common linguistic features among those languages. There are causes that lead to convergence as the causes of the divergence of the languages. Nowadays the existing languages in different parts of the world influence to each other in different ways. Geographic, economic, political, and cultural and many other relations can be a reason to the convergence and divergence of the languages with each other.

Convergence and divergence as trends of development occur in opposite directions in different times with different force of penetration. They replace each other in the process of the historical development of the world. Yet it never occurs only in the development of one language. According to V. M. Zhirmunsky: “A divergence is the fundamental process of the formation of certain languages that constitute one language family by reason of relativity of the dialects that were used by the nation living in the certain area and their expansion into the other areas” [2, p. 152].

The separation of one language into many others takes place on the grounds of the following reasons:

1) The geographical division of the nations because of their migration.

2) The political division of different newly created countries that involved in it relative nations or their parts using one language.

Convergence is the process of the rapprochement of the languages or dialects of the definite nations living in one area, their appurtenance to one country, and their intensive and long-term relations with each other.

That is the parent language not only crushes into pieces but gets together and forms a new language in the process of the compact development of relative languages. For example, the language of Vedas’ of the Hinduism in India, Latin for the Italic languages, etc. [3, p. 26].

The more opportunities to intensive contact and mutual understanding of the speakers of certain dialects or relative languages, the greater is the influence to the material imminence of languages that belong to different layers of the language meaning. According to E. A. Makayev: “the stabilization of the definite language unit is formed in one language then it leads to derivation of the several common structural characters prevalent in other languages.” The process of the convergence may include the unrelated languages [4, p. 47].

According to N. S. Trubetskoy, languages can become relatives as a result of convergence. For example, Indo-European languages became relatives due to the following reasons: 1) the absence of vocalic harmony; 2) the number of Consonantism at the end, in the middle and at the beginning of the word positionally are not few; 3) the presence of affixation; 4) the alternation of the change of phonemes with the help – of Ablaut of vowels; 5) the presence of the contextual-phonomorphological change of vowel phonemes in formation of grammatical forms [5, p. 87–88]. One language out of two is always privileged from social point of view and as leading position that is the prestigious language faces less changes rather than the second one which is dependent.

The changes in dependent languages take place not only in basic vocabulary, but “in the way of their use,” that is cultural aspects. In the end, they transfer to another dialect that is a dependent relative language, and as a result of this the development of the general language is observed. As an example we can suggest the following, Anglo – Saxon (Old English) language ÷ Francish – Normandic dialects → Middle English. There is no language, the basic vocabulary of it is formed from one half languages and the second half is from another. Language changes are usually slow and gradual. They proceed in minor, imperceptible steps unnoticed by the speakers. The rate of the language change is restricted by the communicative function of language for a rapid change would have disturbed communication between speakers of different generations. Unlike human society, language undergoes no revolutions or sudden breaks. The slow rate of linguistic change is seen in the gradual spread of new features in language space. Different parts or levels of language develop at different rates. The scholars give different explanations of divergence and convergence as the causes of language evolution.

1. J.G. Herder and W. Grimm show the Romantic tendencies as the principal causes of the language development.

2. A. Schleicher proposed a naturalistic explanation of the language development saying that “As the language is a living organism, it has got its birth, maturity, old age and decay”.

3. W. Wundt and H. Paul explained the language development psychologically, saying: “A change in the individual psychology causes a change in the language”.

4. J. Vendryes and A. Meillet explained the process of language development from the point of view of the sociologic school in linguistics saying that Linguistic changes are caused by social conditions and events in external history.

5. F. de Saussure, L. Hjelmslev, R. Jacobson, and L. Bloomfield explained the language development from the structuralism point of view, saying that the main internal cause of the language change is the pressure of language system. When the balance of symmetrical structural arrangement is disrupted, it tends to be restored again under the pressure of symmetry [6, p. 63–64].

Having analyzed the opinions put forward by different scholars we’ve come to the following conclusions. By the concept of convergence in linguistics we understand the processes that happen when the nations speaking centrifugal languages live in one area, and have prolonged and interrelated relations. The processes of convergence include in itself relative languages, irrelative languages and dialects of one language. These may lead to the changes of phonological, morphological and structural changes of the syntactic systems of words borrowed from other languages. So, in III-I centuries BC and at the beginning of century the habitation of the Vandalic, Rugiian, Burgundian tribes near the Goths living in the deltas of Visla and Oder, brought to the convergence of the Germanic dialects that were relative to the Southern Germanic Branches. Usually, the interaction of the convergence and divergence of these languages is observed in one historic period. We can see this in the history of the Germanic Languages. The movement of one part of the tribes speaking Germanic Languages to Scandinavia in the last centuries of the millennium BC brought to the appearance two groups of Germanic languages.

The formation of Northern (Scandinavia) and Southern (Continental) dialects reflected on the geographical position and distribution of the nations speaking Germanic Language in those periods and other various processes related to the migration. The migration, movement of the several Germanic tribes from Scandinavia to the continent brought to the systematic study of the oppositional features of the three groups, that are – northern, eastern, and first western and now eastern groups. This shows how the processes of divergence and convergence are important in the historical development of the languages and they play a great role in the study of the language history.


1.    Malvern D., Richards B. Lexical Diversity and language development. Bacman Publishers, 2004, 270 p.

2.    Zhirmunsky V.M. German Dialectology. M.: Nauka, 1958, 600 p.

3.    Anderson B.L. Migration, accommodation and language change. – Palman Publishers, 2008, 215 p.

4.    Makayev E.A. Germanic languages. M.: Nauka, 1970, 320 p.

5.    Trubetskoy N. An Introduction to Phonology. Oxford, OUP, 1978, 340 p.

6.    Campbell L., Mixco M.J. A Glossary to Historical linguistics, Edinburgh University Press, 2007, 244 p. 

7.    Kortlandt F. Studies in Germanic, Indo-European and Indo-Uralic. – Rodopi Publishers, 2010, 576 p.

8.    Brown S., Attardo S. Understanding language structure, Interaction and Variation. – Michigan Press, 2005, 236p.

9.    Luraghi S., Bubenik V. Continuum Companion to Historical Linguistics. – Continuum Publishers, 2010, 448 p.

Koerner K. Continuity and Change in Grammar. – John Benjamin’s Publishing Company, 2010, 310p.

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