"Learners to leaders: real time incrementation of sound change between childhood and adolescence" - Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott, University of Southampton

  • Thu 31 May 18

    12:00 - 14:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott, University of Southampton

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Language and Linguistics Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Language and Linguistics, Department of

  • Contact details

    Victoria Mead

As young speakers develop between childhood and adolescence they are tasked with two key sociolinguistic challenges. First, they must learn to sound like the people around them by internalising and producing the sociolinguistic norms of their speech community. Second, they must push ongoing language changes on a stage further and emerge as the leaders. In other words, they need to sound the same as their communities but also different!

In this talk, I track the development of these two processes through the use of real time data. The sample consists of 13 speakers, and targets a key phase in development – childhood to adolescence. The speakers were initially interviewed aged 9-11, and then again 4 years later, aged 13-15. A further corpus in the form of an age stratified adult corpus of speech from the same community forms a baseline for comparison.

The challenge faced by the young speakers is further complicated by the divergent behaviour of different types of sound changes: some are subject to overt prestige or stigma while others progress unimpeded by any explicit social evaluation (e.g. Labov, 1966; L. Milroy, 2007). How does the development of a socially marked form compare to one that flies below the sociolinguistic radar?

In order to address this question, I compare two different types of sound change: one heavily stigmatised, and one generally immune to social commentary. Analysis reveals that the changes do show very different patterns and trajectories. The results illustrate the intersection of two developmental processes in real time: the incrementation of sound change, and the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence. More broadly, these findings reveal how linguistic, social and developmental factors interact to constrain and propel different types of sound change.

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