As the speaker and writer of an archaic dialect known as mid-20th century Standard English, which I faithfully taught for 40 years, I can confirm the truth in this Guardian article: Resistance to changes in grammar is futile, say researchers. Excerpt:
When it comes to changes in language, there’s no point crying over spilt milk: researchers charting fluctuations in English grammar say the rise of certain words, such as spilled, is probably down to chance, and that resistance is futile.
Comparisons have long been drawn between evolution and changes in language, with experts noting that preferences such as a desire for emphasis can act as a type of “natural selection”, affecting which words or forms of grammar are passed on between generations.
But a new study shows that another evolutionary mechanism might play a key role : random chance.
The authors of the study say that the work adds to our understanding of how language changes over centuries.
“Whether it is by random chance or selection, one of the things that is true about English – and indeed other languages – is that the language changes,” said Joshua Plotkin, co-author of the research from the University of Pennsylvania. “The grammarians might [win the battle] for a decade, but certainly over a century they are going to be on the losing side.”
Writing in the journal Nature, Plotkin and colleagues describe how they tracked different types of grammatical changes across the ages.
Among them, the team looked at changes in American English across more than one hundred thousand texts from 1810 onwards, focusing on the use of “ed” in the past tense of verbs compared with irregular forms – for example, “spilled” versus “spilt”.
The hunt threw up 36 verbs which had at least two different forms of past tense, including quit/quitted and leaped/leapt. However for the majority, including spilled v spilt, the team said that which form was waxing or waning was not clearly down to selection – meaning it is probably down to chance over which word individuals heard and copied.
“Chance can play an important role even in language evolution – as we know it does in biological evolution,” said Plotkin, adding that the impact of random chance on language had not been fully appreciated before.
For just six of the 36 verbs, the rise of one form over another was clearly not only down to chance, but was largely a result of active preference – akin to natural selection.
Specifically, “woke” is increasingly preferred over “waked” and “lit” more popular than “lighted”, while “weaved” and “snuck” are on track to eventually overtake “wove” and “sneaked”, respectively.