Principles of Linguistic Change, Social Factors / Edition 1

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This volume presents the long-anticipated results of several decades of inquiry into the social origins and social motivation of linguistic change.

  • Written by one of the founders of modern sociolinguistics
  • Features the first complete report on the Philadelphia project designed to establish the social location of the leaders of linguistic change
  • Includes chapters on social class, neighborhood, ethnicity, gender, and social networks that delineate the leaders of linguistic change as women of the upper working class with a high density of interaction within their neighborhoods and a high proportion of weak ties outside of it
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fine piece of qualitative sociolinguistic work that crowds decades of research into the social motivation of phonetic variation and change in some American English dialects... It will also provide rich methodological guidance and material data for scholars interested in the social underpinnings of sound change." Multilingua

"William Labov's work is the cornerstone of quantitative sociolinguistics, and his pre-eminence in the field is assured for now and for some time to come. He has taught a whole generation of scholars the skills of careful and accountable fieldwork and of analysing linguistic data collected in the field, and in this respect his work has been inspirational." Journal of Linguistics

"It was the unanimous decision of the Committee to award this year's Leonard Bloomfield Book Award to Labov's book. The Committee feels this book is a landmark in the study of language change. It not only presents a coherent and compelling account of the internal mechanics of phonological change, but successfully integrates this account with theoretical advances in grammatical theory, sociolinguistics, and dialectology, as well as historical linguistics. Labov's scholarship in this work is unsurpassed and ranges from a proposed solution to the Neogrammarian controversy, to an account of the changing dialect situation in the United States, to proposals for applying the theory of lexical phonology to the explanation of a set of historical paradoxes, and to exploring the limits of functional explanation." LSA

"This is a book that anyone interested in social factors in language change will want to read." Journal of Multilingual & Multicultural Development.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780631179160
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/7/2010
  • Series: Language in Society Series, #1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

The author is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-editor of Language Variation and Change and is author of Sociolinguistic Patterns (1972), Language in the Inner City (1972), and Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 1: Internal Factors (Blackwell, 1994).

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Table of Contents


Notational Conventions.

Part I: The Speech Community.

1. The Darwinian Paradox.

The Social Effects of Language Change.

The Parallels Between Biological and Linguistic Evolution.

Earlier Proposals for the Causes of Sound Change.

Differend Kinds of Sound Change.

The Narrow Interface between Language and Society.

The Social Location of the Innovators.

Individual, Group, Community.

2. The Study of Linguistic Change and Variation in Philadelphia:.

Sampling the Community.

The City of Philadelphia.

The Exploratory Phase.

The Neighborhood Study.

The Telephone Survey.

3. Stable Sociolinguistic Variables:.

The Necessary Background for the Study of Change in Progress.

Variables to be Examined in this Chapter.

The Stability of the Stable Variables.

The Sociolinguistic Sample of Philadelphia.

Cross-tabulation of (dh), Class, and Style.

Cross-tabulation by Age.

Cross-tabulations by Age and Social Class.

Second Regression Analysis.

An Exploration of Social Class Indicators.


4. The Philadelphia Vowel System.

The Philadelphia Dialect Area.

A General Framework for the Description of the Philadelphia Vowel System.

Earlier Records of the Philadelphia Vowel System.

The Philadelphia Vowel System in the 1970's.

Development of Sound Changes in Apparent Time.

Part II: Social Class, Gender, Neighborhood, and Ethnicity.

5. Location of the Leaders in the Socioeconomic Hierarchy:.

The Data Set.

Accuracy and Sources of Error.

First Regression: Age Correlations.

First Tabulation of Social Class.

Second Regression: Age and Social Class.

Third Regression: Re-analyzing the Age Dimension.

The Centralization of (ay) before Voiceless Consonants.

The Telephone Survey.

Components of the Socioeconomic Index.

An Overview.

Further Observations of Class Distributions.

The Curvilinear Pattern and the Causes of Change.

Are Sound Changes Part of an Adaptive Process?.

6. Subjective Dimensions of Change in Progress.

Field Methods for the Study of Subjective Reactions to Language Change.

The Philadelphia Self-Report Test.

The Philadelphia Subjective Reaction Test.

7. Neighborhood and Ethnicity.

The Relation of Local Differentiation to Linguistic Change.

The Belfast Neighborhoods.

The Relation of Neighborhood to Social Class in Philadelphia.

Results of the Fourth Regression Analysis: Adding Neighborhoods.

An Overview of Neighborhood Effects.


(r) in Philadelphia.

Other Unexplained Adstratum Effects.

Ethnic Effects on Philadelphia Vowel Change.

The Role of the Neighborhood and Ethnicity in Linguistic Change.

8. The Gender Paradox:.

Gender Differentiation of Stable Sociolinguistic Variables in Philadelphia.

The General Linguistic Conformity of Women.

Gender Differentiation of Changes from Below.

9. The Intersection of Gender, Age, and Social Class.

The Case of (ay0).

Developments of Time by Gender.

A Gender-Asymmetrical Model of Linguistic Change.

Nearly Completed and Middle-Range Changes in Philadelphia.

The Punctuating Events.

The Male-Dominated Variable: (ay0).


Part III: The Leaders of Linguistic Change:.

10. Social Networks.

The Sociolinguistic Use of Social Networks.

Social Networks in Belfast.

Social Networks in Philadelphia.

The Two-Step Flow of Influence.

A General View of Fashion and Fashion Leaders.

Who Leads the Leaders?.

11. Resolving the Gender Paradox.

The Conformity Paradox.

The Strategy of this Chapter: Combining Stable Variables with Changes in Progress.

Correlations between Stable Sociolinguistic Variables and Changes in Progress.

The Relation of (dha) to Linguistic Changes for Women of Different Social Classes.

Combined Male and Female Analysis.

Incremental and Saccadic Leaders.

12. Portraits of the Leaders.

Celeste S.

Teresa M.

The Corcorans.

Rick Corcoran.

Individuals as Regression Variables.

The Leaders of Palatalization in Cairo Arabic.

The Leaders of Linguistic Change.

Part IV: Transmission, Incrementation, and Continuation.

13. Transmission.

The Transmission Problem.

The Transmission of Stable Sociolinguistic Variables.

The Transmission of Change.

Directional Language Change Among Philadelphia Children.

Transmission Among Adolescents in Detroit.

14. Incrementation.


A Model of Linear Sound Change.

15. Continuation:.

Continued Change in the Philadelphia Dialect.

The Incrementation of Sound Change in North America.

16. Conclusion:.

The Linguistic Basis for Continuation.

The Social Location of the Leaders of Change.

Tramsmission and Incrementation.

The Social Basis of Linguistic Change.

Global Polarities of Socially Motivated Projection.




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