I was just wondering about this today. I know that language does change over time, but what about the colloquialisms and/or general style of an 'era', make it so 'cool'?
For example I've been reading quite a lot of Victorian books and while the language is still 'English' at its core there are certain aspects of the language, the words, the mechanics that cannot be re-duplicated and are just characteristic of the era. Moreover, I've found that (this isn't based on any hard data, purely anecdotal) the style they cultivated in the 19th century has been very influential and has extended far into the future as well. 'Good/Pompous/Scholarly writing' in the modern era, almost always harks back to the lingo and mannerisms of the Victorian age. While it is possible to be skillful and articulate in any English dialect, most people have stereotyped Victorian style prose a la Arthur Conan Doyle, HG Wells as being what constitutes stellar writing. And this sentiment isn't just confined to England, but has rather bled into the entire English-speaking world.
So in a sense we've fetishized the era. I'm pretty sure if you went back in time, none of what we've stereotyped to be 'good form' was that special to the Victorians. Also, I'm pretty sure that the Victorians themselves had an inferiority complex of their own since I believe it was them who dug Shakespeare out of the dusty annals history and made him a big deal again. To them I bet they considered their own literature to be piss poor and renaissance literature to be the absolute pinnacle that the English language could hope to reach.
Why is this? Why do we cast our eyes backwards instead of infront? Why do we use large dictionaries to keep the terms of a by-gone era fresh in a newer generation's mind? Why not do away with dictionaries, respecting grammatical rules and/or following precedent altogether so that we can refashion the language, however we see fit, at our own discretion? This would in a sense allow us to masters of our own fates. I sometimes feel that we the newer generation get tyrannized by our past When later generations look at early 21st century English literature, what's going to stand out to them? Are we not merely following precedent? Copying our predecessors?
Does anybody have any thoughts and/or insight on this? It's really quite fascinating.