Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-r82c8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-29T16:58:38.100Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

2 - Social Meaning and Sound Change

from Part I - Where Is (Social) Meaning?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2021

Lauren Hall-Lew
University of Edinburgh
Emma Moore
University of Sheffield
Robert J. Podesva
Stanford University, California
Get access


Why does a sound change spread faster among one group of people than another? While variationist sociolinguistics was founded on the idea that a variant’s social meaning might be part of the answer, the proposal is still the source of active debate. Eckert (2008, 2012) calls for a renewed focus on social meaning, articulating the core interest of ‘third wave’ research. Here, we join some recent work that highlights the benefits of combining analytic perspectives from all of Eckert’s (2012) three waves, particularly with respect to the study of sound change. By directly comparing insights from parallel analyses of the same data, we argue that all sound change researchers can potentially benefit from considering a third-wave perspective, in the sense that social change results in indexical change, and this may explain the trajectory of a sound change. Our data come from white and Chinese American residents of San Francisco’s Sunset District, recorded in 2008. As with the COT-CAUGHT merger (Hall-Lew 2013), focus on social change over time suggests that the individuals who came of age during the peak of social change are key to mapping the trajectory of GOAT-fronting.

Social Meaning and Linguistic Variation
Theorizing the Third Wave
, pp. 27 - 53
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bauman, Carina. 2016. Speaking of Sisterhood: A Sociolinguistic Study of an Asian American Sorority. Ph.D. dissertation. New York: New York University.
Cardoso, Amanda, Hall-Lew, Lauren, Kemenchedjieva, Yova, and Purse, Ruaridh. 2016. Between California and the Pacific Northwest: The front lax vowels in San Francisco English. In Fridland, V., Evans, B., Kendall, T., and Wassink, A. (eds.), Speech in the Western States, Vol. 1: The Coastal States. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 3354.
Cheshire, Jenny, Kerswill, Paul, Fox, Sue, and Torgersen, Eivind. 2011. Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15(2): 151–96.
Chun, Elaine W. 2004. Ideologies of legitimate mockery. Pragmatics 14(2), 289.
Clopper, Cynthia G., and Pisoni, David B.. 2006.The nationwide speech project: A new corpus of American English dialects. Speech Communication 48(6), 344.
Davies, Emma. 2017. Stance and Social Meaning: goat-vowel Variation in San Francisco English. M.Sc. thesis. Edinburgh, UK: University of Edinburgh.
D’Onofrio, Annette, and Van Hofwegen, Janneke. 2015. Nisei style: Vowel dynamism in a second-generation Japanese-American community. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 44. Toronto, ON.
Eckert, Penelope. 1989. The whole woman: Sex and gender differences in variation. Language Variation and Change 1(3), 245–67.
Eckert, Penelope. 2005. Variation, convention, and social meaning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). Oakland, CA.
Eckert, Penelope. 2008a. Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12(4), 453–76.
Eckert, Penelope. 2008b. Where do ethnolects stop? International Journal of Bilingualism 12(1), 2542.
Eckert, Penelope. 2011. Language and power in the preadolescent heterosexual market. American Speech 86(1), 8597.
Eckert, Penelope. 2012. Three waves of variation study: The emergence of meaning in the study sociolinguistic variation. Annual Review of Anthropology 41, 78100.
Eckert, Penelope. 2016. Variation, meaning, and social change. In Coupland, N. (ed.), Sociolinguistics: Theoretical Debates. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 6885.
Eckert, Penelope, and Labov, William. 2017. Phonetics, phonology and social meaning. Journal of Sociolinguistics 21(4), 130.
Godfrey, Brian J. 1988. Neighborhoods in Transition: The Making of San Francisco’s Ethnic and Nonconformist Communities. University of California Publications in Geography, Vol. 27. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2005. One shift, two groups: When fronting alone is not enough. University of Philadelphia Working Papers in Linguistics 10(2), Article 9.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2009. Ethnicity and Phonetic Variation in a San Francisco Neighborhood. Ph.D. dissertation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2010. Ethnicity and Sociolinguistic Variation in San Francisco. Language & Linguistics Compass 4(7), 458–72.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2011. The completion of a sound change in California English. Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Hong Kong, 807–10.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2013. ‘Flip-flop’ and mergers-in-progress. English Language and Linguistics 17(2), 359–90.
Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2014. Chinese social practice and San Franciscan authenticity. In Lacoste, V., Leimgruber, J., and Breyer, T., (eds.), Indexing Authenticity: Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Berlin, DE: De Gruyter, 5577.
Hall-Lew, Lauren, Cardoso, Amanda, Kemenchedjieva, Yova, Wilson, Kieran, Purse, Ruaridh, and Saigusa, Julie. 2015. San Francisco English and the California Vowel Shift. Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Glasgow, UK: University of Glasgow.
Hinton, Leanne, Bremner, Sue, Corcoran, Hazel et al. 1987. It’s not just Valley Girls: A study of California English. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 13, 117–27.
Irvine, Judith T. 2001. ‘Style’ as distinctiveness: The culture and ideology of linguistic differentiation. In Eckert, P. and Rickford, J. R. (eds.), Style and Sociolinguistic Variation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2143.
Kendall, Tyler, and Thomas, Erik R.. 2009–14. Vowels: Vowel Manipulation, Normalization, and Plotting in R. R Package. Version 1.2–1.
Labov, William. 1963. The social motivation of a sound change. Word 19(3), 273309.
Labov, William. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Labov, William. 2001. Principles of Language Change, Vol. 2: Social Factors. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Labov, William, Ash, Sharon, and Boberg, Charles. 2006. Atlas of North American English. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Lave, Jean, and Wenger, Etienne. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Luthin, Herbert. 1987. The story of California /ow/: The coming-of-age of English in California. In Denning, K. et al. (eds.), Variation in Language: NWAV-XV at Stanford. Stanford, CA: Department of Linguistics, Stanford University, 312–24.
Moonwomon, Birch. 1992. Sound Change in San Francisco English. Ph.D. dissertation. Berkeley, CA: University of California.
Moore, Emma, and Carter, Paul. 2015. Dialect contact and distinctiveness: The social meaning of language variation in an island community. Journal of Sociolinguistics 19(1), 336.
Podesva, Robert J. 2011. The California Vowel Shift and gay identity. American Speech 86(1), 3251.
Podesva, Robert J., D’Onofrio, Annette, Van Hofwegen, Janneke, and Kim, Seung Kyung. 2015. Country ideology and the California Vowel Shift. Language Variation and Change 27(2), 157–86.
Pratt, Teresa, and D’Onofrio, Annette. 2017. Jaw setting and the California Vowel Shift in parodic performance. Language in Society 46(3), 130.
Rosenfelder, Ingrid, Fruehwald, Josef, Evanini, Keelan et al. 2014. FAVE 1.1.3. Zenodo. Doi: 10.5281/zenodo.9846.
Schilling, Natalie. 2013. Investigating Stylistic Variation. In Chambers, J. K. and Schilling, N. (ed.), The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 325–49.
Silverstein, Michael. 2003. Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language & Communication 23, 193229.
Sóskuthy, Márton. 2017. Generalised Additive Mixed Models for Dynamic Analysis in Linguistics: A Practical Introduction. arXiv:1703.05339 [stat:AP].
Trudgill, Peter. 2008. On the role of children, and the mechanical view: A rejoinder. Language in Society 37(2), 27780.
Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Winter, Bodo, and Wieling, Martin. 2016. How to analyze linguistic change using mixed models, Growth Curve Analysis and Generalized Additive Modeling. Journal of Language Evolution 1(1), 718.
Wong, Amy Wing-mei, and Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2014. Regional variability and ethnic identity: Chinese Americans in New York City and San Francisco. Language & Communication 35(1), 2742.
Wood, Simon. 2006. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats