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Obviously undergoing change: Adverbs of evidentiality across time and space

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2021

Sali A. Tagliamonte
University of Toronto
Jennifer Smith
University of Glasgow


Increasingly globalized communication networks in the modern world may influence traditional patterns of linguistic change: in contrast to an orderly sequential pathway of change, more recently a number of “mega trends” have been identified, which accelerate simultaneously in time and space. The rise of obviously within the cohort of adverbs of evidentiality—naturally, evidently, clearly, and of course—may be one such trend. To examine this possibility, we conduct a large-scale sociolinguistic analysis of c12,000 adverbs of evidentiality across over thirty communities in the UK and Canada. The results reveal parallel development across time and space: obviously advances rapidly among individuals born in the 1960s in both countries. The rise of obviously illustrates key attributes that are beginning to emerge from other rapidly innovating features: “off the shelf” changes that (1) are easily borrowed, (2) receptive to global trends, but (3) exhibit parallel patterns as the change progresses.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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