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Languages are constantly changing. The reasons for the changes can be both internal (i.e., when monolingual speakers adopt new ways of saying things according to social factors like age, gender, and class) and external (e.g., language contact). Although toponyms are ‘linguistic fossils’ that tend to retain older linguistic features and can withstand violent population shifts more so than the general lexicon, they are also affected by the process of language change. This is explored through several examples from around the world. It is only through analysing language change – with an approach that incorporates historical-linguistic methodologies like the comparative method and dialectological interpretations – that a toponymist can reconstruct the original (and most remote) toponymic root of a place name. The latter half of the chapter demonstrates how toponyms can be used to ‘crack’ hitherto undeciphered languages, the most notable being Linear B (a syllabic writing system transcribing Mycenaean Greek, an archaic form of Ancient Greek). The authors also apply an experimental methodology, using toponyms, to provide a possible interpretation of place names possibly transcribed through Linear A (the grammatological ancestor of the Linear B writing system).
The results of this study have implications for our theoretical linguistic models of native speaker knowledge, and to understanding the mechanisms of language acquisition, transmission, and diachronic language change. Implications for language policies and the education of minority language speakers in the United States are discussed.
This chapter presents a more fine-grained analysis of why and how DOM vulnerability may have become more prevalent in Spanish than in Hindi and Romanian at the individual level. Specifically, linking language acquisition, language attrition and diachronic language change, it addresses the question of the potential relationship between the I-language of the heritage speakers and the E-language of the first-generation immigrants, who are often the heritage speakers’ main source of input. It presents follow-up studies of DOM in Spanish-speaking bilingual children and adults and their mothers and the results are not consistent with direct transmission of DOM omission from the first to the second-generation (the heritage speakers). It is suggested that that second-generation heritage speakers, who have as much difficulty mastering the morphology of their heritage language as typical L2 learners, can also change the grammars of the parental generation and be the innovators in the Spanish variety spoken in the United States.
Who as a restrictive relativizer in English is an old change from above. In urban dialects, it still acts as a prestige form, whereas it is infrequent or negligible in rural British and American varieties. We compare earlier findings from Toronto, the largest city in the province of Ontario (D’Arcy & Tagliamonte, 2010), with a range of communities from the Ontario Dialects Project (Tagliamonte, 2003–present). While none of the rural locations has as much who as Toronto, there is a substantial range. Regions along the major highways to the north and east of the city have more who, while the smaller towns in less accessible locations have less, consistent with a Cascade Model effect (Labov, 2003). Nonetheless, who shows evidence of diffusion, increasing in apparent time in recent decades. We suggest that this reflects overt pressure from above, consistent with the enduring role that prestige plays in English relativizer variation.
This Element is a contribution to a new generation of corpus pragmatics research by taking as its starting point the multifaceted nature of speech acts in conversation, and by adopting a mixed-methods approach. Through a unique combination of theoretical, qualitative, quantitative, and statistical approaches, it provides a detailed investigation of advice-giving and advice uptake in relation to (i) the range of constructions used to give advice in different discourse contexts and at different points in time, and (ii) their interaction with dialogic and social factors of advice uptake as key components of frames of advice exchanges in natural conversation. Using data from the London-Lund Corpora of spoken British English, the Element shows, firstly, that there are systematic differences in advising between discourse contexts over the past half a century, and, secondly, that who gave the advice and how they did it are the strongest predictors of the advisee's response. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
One of the most dramatic discourse–pragmatic changes in twentieth–century English has progressed under the radar of laypeople and (until recently) linguists: the rise of um as the predominant variant of the “filled pause” variable (UHM) at the expense of uh. We investigate UHM at an early stage of change to determine what triggered its rise. We employ the variationist method to examine UHM in the Farm Work and Farm Life Since 1890 corpus of oral histories (recorded in 1984 with elderly farmers in Ontario, Canada). Nearly 5,000 tokens were extracted and coded for speaker birth year, gender, region, and utterance position. The overall frequency of um among the farmers is 11 percent. We find no significant effect of gender (12 percent for women, 10 percent for men). In one region, there is an effect of birth year. Lastly, we find no effect of utterance position. Looking at the frequency of each variant per 1,000 words, however, we see that, while the rate of um remains relatively stable, the rate of uh increases rapidly with year of birth, particularly with non–initial tokens produced by female speakers. Our results indicate that this data covers the first stage of this change.
This chapter investigates the development of pragmatic markers and critique the argument that they develop gradually by means of the grammaticalization of lexical items (e.g., Traugott 1995). Specifically, it argues that what has been said to be gradual is necessarily a case of (potentially a series of) abrupt change(s). This idea is not unlike the Traugott and Trousdale (2010) discussion of micro–changes and Brinton and Traugott’s (2005:150) “tiny local steps between A and B that the arrow ‘>’ encompasses". The view here is a generative perspective on language change, adopting and adapting Roberts and Roussou’s (2003) generative approach to grammaticalization and Kroch’s (1994) discussion of morphosyntactic change. Arguments for abrupt change are drawn from an examination of the trajectories of change of epistemic parentheticals. In conceptualizing the development of pragmatic markers from a generative perspective, the chapter outlines a schematic of grammatical change for these systems that involves upward reanalysis similar to Roberts and Roussou (2003). The chapter concludes by pointing out that different theoretical perspectives on changes to pragmatic markers tend to dance around similar conclusions, and in many ways differences in vocabulary obscure similar understandings of how language changes.
The chapter establishes a baseline of the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties of a “new” totally in UK English in the 2010s, as demonstrated through the BC2014S. It offers a short–term diachronic perspective on the developments of totally, comparing the instances of totally from the BNC2014S with the original British National Corpus. A distinction is made between a lexical (maximizing) category, booster, and emphasizer. In its lexical use, totally can be replaced by completely, the adjective or verb modified by totally is bounded, and the speaker’s perspective is less present. In the emphasizer function, totally co–occurs with an unbounded verb or adjective and can be replaced by certainly. Totally has been regarded as a booster when it combines with gradable adjectives to express a high degree of adjectival property. Totally can stand alone with the function to respond to a previous utterance in the conversation. The semantic development of totally from an intensifier to an emphasizer is an example of subjectification and grammaticalization. As a discourse marker with reactive function, totally becomes integrated into a paradigm of epistemic adverbials. The sociolinguistic findings point to a connection between the semantic or pragmatic properties of totally and young people, especially young females.
Sentence–final is all has received little attention in the literature. Its use is a relatively recent development since the late nineteenth century, mostly restricted to colloquial American English (Delin 1992; Follett 1998). This chapter demonstrates that is all does not appear to represent reported speech so much as to refer back to the preceding text, in line with the OED’s claim that sentence–final is all implies ‘that is all there is to be said’. The chapter demonstrates that speakers often use sentence–final is all to close a topic and to distance themselves from an unwanted interpretation of the preceding utterance. In contrast, sentence–final that BE all ranges from literal meanings to the more (inter)subjective pragmatic meanings of is all.
The second half of the chapter examines the historical development, drawing on data from various corpora. The authors argue that sentence–final is all derives from postponed independent or conjoined that BE all by processes of phonological reduction and deletion with subsequent reanalysis. A conversational implicature arose from that is all ‘do not infer anything more’, triggering the development of reduced is all toward a discourse–pragmatic marker.
Written by four leading experts, this book provides a comprehensive overview of sociolinguistic variation and linguistic change in Arabic. It introduces sociolinguistic theory, methods, and data step-by-step, using accessible language and extensive examples throughout. Topics covered include sociolinguistic methodology, social variables, language change, spatial variation, and contact and diffusion. Each topic is explained and illustrated using empirical data drawn from a wide array of Arabic-speaking communities in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as other parts of the world where Arabic is or was spoken, to provide a rich resource of individual dialects, as well as a comparative view of variation in Arabic. Each chapter also contains annotated suggestions for further reading and elaborate exercises. It is an essential resource for students studying Arabic in its social context, as well as anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of variation in Arabic.
This paper is another argument in favor of a uniformitarian approach to Creole languages, analyzed on a par with non-Creole languages. We take a critical look at competing hypotheses about the formation of Creole languages and any resulting typology. We document and analyze the shortcomings of these hypotheses in terms of methodical and theoretical flaws, lack of empirical coverage, and socio-historical implausibility. Then, we present our own proposal for a “Null Theory of Creole Formation” whereby the term “Creole” can only have socio-historical, and definitely not linguistic-structural, significance. In this “Null Theory,” the individual-level cognitive processes that underlie the formation of grammatical structures in Creole languages (via the acquisition of both native and non-native languages, by children and adults, respectively) are exactly on a par with their counterparts in the formation of non-Creole languages. So there isn’t, and couldn’t be, any sui generis “Creole typology.” We conclude with some guidelines toward a fully uniformitarian and theoretically constructive framework for the study of Creole languages and their formation – a framework that can also help us understand the formation of new language varieties that do not go by the label “Creole.”
This article explores an instance of dialect levelling in South East England, the reversal of Cockney diphthong shift. We trace this reversal through an apparent-time analysis of 52 speakers from Debden, a community in Essex with East London heritage. Dynamic vowel analyses of word-list and passage data suggests a reversal of the diphthong shift towards SSBE targets which has occurred most abruptly in those born after 1992 potentially as a result of increased social mobility in this generation. We compare the results in Debden to previous findings in the south-eastern towns of Milton Keynes and Reading where apparent-time change was also observed away from a shifted vowel system and towards SSBE targets (Kerswill & Williams 2000, 2005). In diverse areas of South East England, a common process of levelling towards the pan-regional standard is present which is not occurring exclusively as a result of dialect contact or face-to-face interaction. Nonetheless, each community exhibits a distinct trajectory and timing of language change which can be attributed to different patterns of movement and resettlement and, in particular, access to social mobility and the retention of community networks.
This paper demonstrates that the language of the post-War generations of adult Haredi (that is, strictly Orthodox), primarily Hasidic, speakers of Yiddish in the major Hasidic centers worldwide lacks morphological case and gender. Elicited spoken and written data from native Haredi speakers of Yiddish from Israel and the United States, aged 18–87, and limited additional evidence from Canada and Belgium, reveal a complete absence of distinction between masculine, feminine, and neuter genders as well as between the nominative, accusative, and dative cases. While some speakers make use of a variety of morphological definite determiner and attributive adjective forms, their use is not determined by case or gender distinctions. Most of the speakers in our study have an invariable determiner pronounced as /dɛ/ or /di/, whereas the earlier case and gender suffixes on attributive adjectives have been reanalyzed as a single attributive marker, /ɛ/. These findings are consistent with our previous work on the loss of case and gender in the Hasidic Yiddish of London’s Stamford Hill and support our proposal that the Yiddish spoken in (primarily Hasidic) Haredi communities can be considered a distinct variety of the language known as Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish.*
This article is an attempt to explain an observable change in present-day English in terms of quite disparate influences. Since the change is not yet complete, it is a messy conspiracy of these influences. By studying life-time changes of this sort we may gain insights into how well-understood historical changes work. The change under discussion is most noticeable in the written form, but its trigger has been the phonetic realizations of the forms to be considered. The forms are exemplified by alternations in noun phrases such as box(ed)sets, skim(med) milk, arch(ed) corbel table. The relationship between the very different structures used in speech on the one hand and writing on the other is also relevant in this case. The NPs with -ed have a structure Adjpp N, whereas the forms without it are compound nouns. Some of the Adjpp forms found in such noun phrases are actually pseudo-past participles; that is, they are not formed from a verb, but take the -ed ending, e.g. four-wheeled, gate-legged. Whether native speakers learn such forms from the spoken or written language to some extent determines how they are perceived. This is relevant because the phonetic realization of members of both sets may be the same, so the phonetic form [bɒks set] may be perceived as boxed set or box set. I also consider the stress patterns of the new compounds, the orthography as a reflection of the structural change, and the ‘Germanic’ tendency towards compounding. The resultant picture is a messy one and the change has certainly not yet been completed, but we can see a conspiracy of disparate areas of the linguistic system putting pressure on certain lexical combinations. It should also be noted that ‘English’ is not a consistent linguistic system: we have to be clear about which variety is being discussed. English ‘belongs’ to many different groups of people, including non-native speakers as a lingua franca, so it is subject to many more influences today than the parochial versions of even just a hundred years ago.
In this chapter we investigate the role of socio-psychological motivations in accounts of grammatical change. Laboratory and corpus evidence is presented to substantiate the impact of dynamic prestige meanings (associated with non-posh media cool) on the diffusion of the object pronoun hun 'them' as a subject in Netherlandic Dutch. In a speaker evaluation experiment, 185 listener-judges rated speech stimuli with standard and non-standard pronouns on pictures which were the best instantiations, according to a preceding norming task, of the evaluation dimensions old prestige (superiority), new prestige (dynamism), and disapproval. While subject-hun was found to be significantly less superior than the standard pronoun, it was perceived to be no less dynamic. The impact of this dynamic prestige meaning was further investigated on the basis of a dataset of tweets. Regression analysis demonstrated that the preference for hun could be adequately predicted on the basis of production proxies of hun’s social meaning. Taken together, all the available data suggest that the social meaning of hun is a pivotal determinant of its diffusion, viz. its use as a consciously deployed 'stylizer', but also the internal conditioning of its non-conscious use as a pronoun alternative.
This chapter sets out the plan and aims of the book, discusses its theoretical context, forumlates its research questions, and discusses the status of film and television speech as data for studies of language variation and change and the authenticity of film and television speech.
The metrical requirements of Persian poetry are highly restrictive. Traditionally, the rigidity of the metrical system was compensated for by a high degree of flexibility in the poetic language in terms of lexicon, phonology, and morpho-syntax. Using statistical data from different periods of Persian poetry, this paper argues that the degree of flexibility of the language used in metrical Persian poetry has been in constant decrease, moving towards what may potentially be a language crisis for metrical Persian poetry. This study traces the linguistic and meta-linguistic origins of the initial flexibility of the poetic language and its subsequent change, suggesting that some of the recent trends in Persian poetry may be viewed in part as reactions to this potential crisis.
Studies in modality comprise a complex canon of functional, formal, sociological and diachronic analyses of language. The current understanding of how English language speakers use modality is unclear; while some research argues that core modal auxiliaries are in decline, they are reported as increasing elsewhere. A lack of contemporary and representative spoken language data has rendered it difficult to reconcile such differing perspectives. To address this issue, this article presents a diachronic study of modality using the Spoken BNC2014 and the spoken component of the BNC1994. We investigate the frequency of core modal auxiliaries, semi-modals, and lexical modality-indicating devices (MIDs), as well as the modal functions of the core modal auxiliaries, in informal spoken British English, between the 1990s and 2010s. The results of the analysis are manifold. We find that core modal auxiliaries appear to be in decline, while semi-modals and lexical MIDs appear relatively stable. However, on a form-by-form basis, there is significant evidence of both increases and decreases in the use of individual expressions within each modal set. As a result, this study problematises form-based studies of change, and illustrates the value and coherence that functional analyses of modality can afford future work.
Definitions of heritage languages include the languages of migrant, indigenous, and national minorities. This chapter is concerned with migrant minorities. The EU is generally pictured as valuing multilingualism, as reflected by EU policies and citizen’s attitudes. Nevertheless, when Europeans think and speak about protecting multilingualism, they do not necessarily have migrant languages in mind, although these are more numerous than other minorities in terms of both language diversity and number of speakers. The chapter summarizes linguistic research on HSs in Europe covering early childhood, primary school/adolescence, and adulthood, making reference to (morpho-)syntax, phonology, and vocabulary. The goal is to uncover common outcomes and missing links. The focus differs across these research areas but crosslinguistic influence is a common denominator, and the examples witness that research has gone beyond highlighting differences between monolinguals and HSs. Scenarios suggest that HSs may anticipate or resist language change, and that adult HSs often stay within the limits of what is possible in the baseline or related varieties. I conclude by pointing out the lack of comparisons across generations, an overrepresentation of specific languages families, and by suggesting that research drawing analogies with other situations of language contact and change are highly desirable.
Chapter 2 accounts for the general expectation that periods characterized by the dissolution of strong network ties and the establishment of weak ones can be expected to feature a great deal of language change. A survey of sociocultural and linguistic change in England between 1700 and 1900 then demonstrates that structural language change is less prevalent than could be expected given what must have been an increasing prevalence of weak network ties during the period. It is argued that the correlation between weak ties and language change in fact still holds, but that traditional estimates of the amount of language change in Late Modern English do not capture the full extent of the developments that take place between 1700 and 1900.