For decades, scientists have realised that languages evolve in strikingly similar ways to genes and living things. Their words and grammars change and mutate over time, and new versions slowly rise to dominance while other face extinction.
In this evolutionary analogy, old texts like the Canterbury Tales are the English language’s version of the fossil record. They preserve the existence of words that used to be commonplace before they lost a linguistic Darwinian conflict with other, more popular forms.
The rest of this very interesting article is here.