It doesn't stop, it never, never stops, er, it doesn't stop evolving": Observing Spoken British English of the past 20 years through apparent and real-time evidence

Susan Reichelt

CASS, Lancaster University

This presentation introduces the secondary data analysis of the Spoken BNC, past and present. A sociolinguistic approach to carefully compiled subsets of both corpora enables us to investigate language change in both synchronic and diachronic ways.

Tracking language change as it happens is, according to Chambers (1995:147), "the most striking single accomplishment of contemporary linguistics". Starting with Labov's work on Martha's Vineyard (1963) and in New York City (1966), sociolinguists have established apparent-time studies as a convenient method for tracing changes in language use. Notwithstanding its appeal through relative ease of data collection, the apparent-time method comes with caveats, as "data cannot uncritically be assumed to represent diachronic linguistic developments" (Bailey, 2008:314). Real-time studies, though arguably more difficult to conduct, offer the researcher the opportunity to see how language has progressed in actuality. The compilation of socially balanced subsets of Spoken BNC from 1994 and 2014 provides us with resources for a double tracked approach, as "in the best of circumstances, of course, researchers will be able to combine apparent-time data with real-time evidence, with the relative strengths of one approach offsetting the weaknesses of the other" (Bailey, 2008:330).

This talk presents some theoretical musings on age (and time more generally) as a sociolinguistic factor as well as first findings from the secondary data analysis project of the Spoken BNC. Intensifiers, some of the most well-researched discourse devices (e.g. Stenström et al., 2002; Ito and Tagliamonte, 2003; Tagliamonte and Roberts, 2005; Macaulay, 2006; Rickford et al., 2007; Tagliamonte, 2008; Barnfield and Buchstaller, 2010), provide an exemplary backdrop against which I will highlight ongoing language change and ways to observe it.

Week 7 2017/2018

Thursday 23rd November 2017

Fylde D28