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LINGUIST List 19.1520

Thu May 08 2008

Diss: Socioling: Wagner: 'Linguistic Change and Stabilization in th...'

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        1.    Suzanne Wagner, Linguistic Change and Stabilization in the Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood

Message 1: Linguistic Change and Stabilization in the Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood
Date: 08-May-2008
From: Suzanne Wagner <wagnersumsu.edu>
Subject: Linguistic Change and Stabilization in the Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Suzanne Evans Wagner

Dissertation Title: Linguistic Change and Stabilization in the Transition from
Adolescence to Adulthood

Dissertation URL: http://www.msu.edu/~wagnersu/Papers/Wagner-2008-diss.pdf

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director(s):
Gillian Sankoff
Penelope Eckert
William Labov

Dissertation Abstract:

Apparent time studies have found that both stable and changing sociolinguistic
variables demonstrate an age-graded pattern of use in any given speech
community. Younger speakers, especially adolescents, use more non-standard or
advanced variants than older speakers. Yet as teenagers prepare to enter college
or the labor force, they appear to withdraw from non-standard or advanced
variants. Real time confirmation of young people's deceleration and
stabilization is lacking. Longitudinal panel studies of this period of the
lifespan are relatively scarce, and are generally concerned with the linguistic
outcomes of dialect contact. This research demonstrates in real time that
teenagers continue to modify their sociolinguistic repertoires in the transition
from adolescence to young adulthood, and not always away from the direction of
ongoing change.

Female students aged 16-18 at a high school in Philadelphia were recorded in two
phases, each a year apart. Spontaneous speech data was collected in
sociolinguistic interviews. Five linguistic variables were analyzed: two stable
variables, (ing) and (dh) and three vowel variables undergoing community change
in Philadelphia: (aw), (ay0) and (e).

For both (ing) and (dh), only speakers in the highest socioeconomic group
significantly decreased their use of non-standard variants over time. For the
vowel variables, results varied considerably from speaker to speaker. However,
there was a strong indication that speakers are likelier to slow their
participation in older, more socially salient changes such as (aw) and (ay0),
but to continue to participate in younger, non-salient changes such as (e).
These results show that age-grading interpretations of the adolescent peak in
apparent time are supported, so long as the variable in question is above the
level of social awareness, and speakers become sensitive to overt community
status norms as they age. The latter condition is more likely to be fulfilled by
speakers from higher, rather than lower, social groups.

Finally, the study also uncovered a local social opposition between Irish and
Italian peer groups in the school that correlates with one of the variables
studied: (ay0). Irish girls have signficantly backer nuclei than Italian girls,
aligning themselves with the leaders of this change: working class men.
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