Language Change Theorists

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  • Created by: Lex
  • Created on: 19-03-13 21:12

Aitchinson (1991)

Stage 1 - speech of a particular social group differs.

Stage 2 - a second group begins to imitate the speech of the first group.

Stage 3 - the new pronounciation becomes established amongst second group.

Stage 4 - a third social group begins to model itself on the second group.

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Labov (1963)

  • American study of phonological change.
  • Carried out research at Martha's Vineyard.
  • Found certain vowel sounds were subtly changing and moving away from Standard American.
  • Source of change - fisherman showed the strongest differences to mainland pronounciation.
  • He believed that the island's inhabitants were speaking in this way to distance themselves from the tourists that holidayed there.
  • Fisherman, tightly formed group, were resentful of Summer visitors.
  • The next group to change were those aged 30 - 45; imitated to show they were islanders.
  • Concluded islanders were apparently not conscious that their speach was changing.
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Kerswill & Williams (1994)

Milton Keynes.

  • New town.
  • 50 miles from London.
  • Found that the children's speech differed from parents. Closer to speech in London.
  • Illustrates 'Estuary English' spread.
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Norman Fairclough

Developed the concept of synthetic personalisation.


  • The process of directly addressing an audience to create a sense of personal and individual relationship.
  • Persuasive device often resulting in a conversational text or tone and so feels more appealing to the intended audience.
  • It is 'synthetic' because it is artificially developed.


  • Can also be applied to changes in speech that have occurred as a result of divergence or covergence.
  • Fairclough states "there have been shifting boundaries between written and spoken discourse practices and a rising prestige and status for spoken language."
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The Incorrectness view

All accents are incorrect compared to Standard English and RP. Freeborn disagress, arguing that RP only became standard because of its social prestige.

The Ugliness View

Some accents sound 'nice.' This views seems linked to stereotypes and negative connotations.

The Impreciseness View

Some accents are described as sloppy or lazy, because letters or parts of words have been dropped.

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