From: Claire Bowern <bowernrice.edu>
Subject: Young People's Varieties
Regarding query: http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/17/17-679.html#1
Some time ago I sent a query to the list about the existence of so-called
''young people's varieties'' - that is, cases of rapid language change
among fluent speakers of particular languages. The phenomenon is
particularly associated with the last generation of speakers of certain
Australian Indigenous languages. I received responses from the following
people, plus two others who asked not to be included here.
Many thanks to everyone who emailed me.
Susan Burt: immigrant Hmong (in Wisconsin)
Susan referred me to two papers of hers involving language shift:
“How to Get Rid of Unwanted Suitors: Advice from Hmong-American Women of
Two Generations.” Journal of Politeness Research, vol 1, no. 2, pp.
“Growing Up Shifting: Immigrant Children, Their Families and the Schools”
(with Hua Yang) in Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck (eds). Language in the
School Curriculum, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Pp. 29-39. 2005.
[I suspect that some of these young people's varieties are 'shifted'
varieties, but it's not clear to me that all are. CB]
Brian Ó Curnáin: Irish
I think Schmidt's 'Young people's Dyirbal' is a great work. Very similar
phenomena are found in Irish. Traditional acquisition is very different to
modern acquisition, lowest common denominator effects, bilingualism,
code-switching, massive reduction in native vocab, etc.,
I have a forth-coming monograph which deals with some of these issues 'The
Irish of Iorras Aithneach' 2006.
Peter Daniels suggested this is a characteristic of language death (as
suggested by Nancy Dorian).
[My impression from reading Nancy Dorian's work is that she was as much
concerned with intra-generation variation as with variation between
age-groups. Indeed, she was able to rule out age as a factor for the
variety of Scots Gaelic she worked on. There's quite extensive variation in
the last generation of some Australian languages but this is not exactly
what I'm thinking of here.]
Gil`ad Zuckermann: Israeli
The case of Israeli is interesting since there are obviously AETALECTS,
inter alia due to Americanization and inter alia due to the extensive
prescriptive and puristic attempts, which were partially successful with
the older generations.
Richard Hudson pointed me in the direction of his discussion of 'age
grading' in his sociolinguistics text (CUP, 2nd Ed. 1996, p 14-15) and
Peter Unseth mentioned
Lithgow, David. 1973. ''Language change on Woodlark Island.'' Oceania 44: 101-8
Thus in summary, it's fairly clear that severe age-related differences are
found around the world, and that it is not necessarily associated with
language death, although it certainly can be. It's also clear that the more
extreme examples are all in situations of intense language contact
(although we expected that).
Dr Claire Bowern
Linguistics, Rice University
This Year the LINGUIST List hopes to raise $52,932. This money will go to help keep the
List running by supporting all of our Student Editors for the coming year.
See below for donation instructions, and don't forget to check out our Fund Drive 2006
LINGUIST List Cruise for some Fund Drive fun!
There are many ways to donate to LINGUIST!
You can donate right now using our secure credit card form.
Alternatively you can also pledge right now and pay later.
For all information on donating and pledging, including information on how to donate by
check, money order, or wire transfer, please visit:
The LINGUIST List is under the umbrella of Eastern Michigan University and as such can
receive donations through the EMU Foundation, which is a registered 501(c) Non Profit
organization. Our Federal Tax number is 38-6005986. These donations can be offset against
your federal and sometimes your state tax return (U.S. tax payers only). For more
information visit the IRS Web-Site, or contact your financial advisor.
Many companies also offer a gift matching program, such that they will match any gift
you make to a non-profit organization. Normally this entails your contacting your human
resources department and sending us a form that the EMU Foundation fills in and returns
to your employer. This is generally a simple administrative procedure that doubles the
value of your gift to LINGUIST, without costing you an extra penny. Please take a moment
to check if your company operates such a program.
Thank you very much for your support of LINGUIST!
Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue