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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

8 - Implications for language change


I have crossed an ocean I have lost my tongue from the root of the old one a new one has sprung.

(Grace Nichols 1983, Guyanese poet: i is a long memoried woman)


In this chapter we consider the implications of the ONZE findings for the study of language change generally. In particular we use these results to test or clarify a number of general claims that have been made about change in sociolinguistic contexts. Some of these claims are verified or strengthened further by these results, some are challenged, and a few are shown to be wrong. The ONZE results reveal that some claims are in need of significant modification. In Section 2, we discuss difficulties with apparent- vs real-time studies of linguistic change, and in this connection we consider the question of accommodation by adults and the possibility of change in the vernacular later in life. Section 3 is concerned with the finding that speakers' families also can play an important role in influencing the variables they use. Sections 4 and 5 examine claims about vowel shifting and mergers. In Section 6, we take up the role gender plays in linguistic change. Section 7 is dedicated to the possibility of lexically conditioned sound change and lexical diffusion. Section 8 examines the question of whether linguistic change reflects speakers' ‘acts of identity’ and the possibility generally that certain social variables may condition aspects of sound change.

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