LINGUIST List 13.2458

Fri Sep 27 2002

Sum: Age as Sociolinguistic Category

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Mary Shapiro, Age as Sociolinguistic Category

Message 1: Age as Sociolinguistic Category

Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 14:55:47 -0500
From: Mary Shapiro <>
Subject: Age as Sociolinguistic Category

In a previous issue (Linguist 13.2296), I queried readers about
studies (or even speculative/theoretical musings) that treat age
as a sociolinguistic category (rather than as evidence for historical
change). Here is a summary of the messages I received, with many
thanks to those who responded: Emma Moore, Paul Foulkes, Bronwen
Evans, Michael Newman, George Aubin, Chad Nilep, James L. Fidelholtz,
Rusty Barrett, Lise M. Dobrin, J.L. Speranza, & Neil Norrick. Special
thanks to Klaus Schneider, who is in charge of linguistic sub-projects
for a new "multi-disciplinary gerontological research group at Bonn
University, involving linguists, psychologists, and neurologists, but
also ethnologists, historians, and theologists."

Specific references:

Cheshire, J. 1987: Age and generation-specific use of language. In
Ammon, U. et al. (eds.): Sociolinguistics. Berlin/New York: de
Gruyter, 760-767.

Coupland, N. 1991: Sociolinguistic issues in ageing. Ageing and Society
11, 99-102.

Coupland, N. et al. 1991: Language, Society and the Elderly. Oxford:

Eckert, P. 1997: Age as a sociolinguistic variable. In Coulmas, F.
(ed.): The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell, 151-167.

Evans, Nick. ?? The last speaker is dead -- long live the last
speaker! from the volume Linguistic Fieldwork by Newman and Ratliff.

Hamilton, H. (ed.) 1999: Language and Communication in Old Age. New

Hummert, M.L. et al. (eds.) 1994: Interpersonal Communication in Older
Adulthood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Williams, Ann & Kerswill, Paul (1999). Dialect levelling: continuity
vs. change in Milton Keynes, Reading and Hull. In Paul Foulkes and
Gerard Docherty (eds.) Urban Voices. London: Arnold.

Nussbaum, J.F./Coupland, J. (eds.) 1995: Handbook of Communication and
Aging Research. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Weigel, Rebecca and Carl Schniederman, Consistency of Selected
Morphological Rules in Black Children as a Function of age. Journal of
Communication Pathology 1975(1), (Sept) 11-17.

Youseff, Valerie, Age-grading in the Anglophone Creole in Tobago. World
Englishes 2001 (20): 29-46.

Less specific and/or as yet unpublished references:

There is also a chapter on Age (maybe by Eckert but I can't remember)
in the Handbook of Language Variation and Change (Blackwell 2002 ed
Chambers, Trudgill, Schillin-Estes).

"There are discussions of this in Labov's two volumes Principles of
Linguistic Change."

"Carmen Llamas from Aberdeen, UK, has worked on age."

Lesley Milroy and Rusty Barrett are working on a real-time study of
AAE in Detroit comparing Wolfram's interviews from the 60's with
current interviews. A pilot study found strong evidence for
age-grading (rather than language change).

Neil Norrick is looking at narratives by older (80 and over) tellers,
especially with regard to what they consider worth telling, either
funny or significant in their past."

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