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Summary Details

Query:   Young People's Varieties
Author:  Claire Bowern
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Historical Linguistics
Anthropological Linguistics

Summary:   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.
219-236, 2005.

“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
Houston TX

LL Issue: 17.1142
Date Posted: 17-Apr-2006


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