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The role of the Avant Garde in linguistic diffusion

  • William Labov (a1)

Abstract

The spread of the new quotative be like throughout the English-speaking world is a change from above for each community that receives it. Diffusion of this form into Philadelphia is traced through the yearly interviews of the Philadelphia Neighborhood Corpus, beginning with young adults in 1979 and spreading to adolescents in 1990, a generation later. The first users of be like form the Avant Garde, young adults with extensive awareness of linguistic patterns within and without the city. The use of this quotative in Philadelphia is favored by constraints that are found elsewhere, particularly to introduce inner speech that is not intended to be heard by others and to cite exemplars of a range of utterances. Not previously reported is a strong tendency to be favored for quotations with initial exclamations, prototypically expressions of surprise and alarm such as “Oh” and “Oh my god!”.

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The role of the Avant Garde in linguistic diffusion

  • William Labov (a1)

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