Language Variation

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William Labov's "fourth floor" experiment - 1966

Findings: 
It is clear that "r" inclusion is socially prestigious because their was a higher percentage inclusion in the speech of upper-middle classes than lower-middle claseses. 
- Differences in social stratification infer a difference percentage of "r" inclusion. 
The careful (emphatic) speech styles also included more "r" insertion than the casual speech = the speaker is talking slowly and remembers to insert "r."
- The emphatic and casual speech of the employers at Saks did not differ much, which suggests they felt secure with their speech styles, the lower-middle classes had a significant increase in the percentage of "r" insertion in the careful speech. This is hypercorrection.  

The lower-middle classes were NOT secure with their speech and therefore placed more emphasis on the postvocalic "r" as a way to counter their low status, to appear of a higher social standing. 
- Hypercorrection shows linguistic change in process. 
- The lower-middle classes are also upwardly converging by inserting speech elements that are associated with prestige.
- Hypercorrection is more common in women than in men. (Lower-middle class mothers were upwardly converging towards the speech style of the upper-middle class mothers. Acceptance/ solidarity.)

The change in New York City speech was conscious = New Yorkers dislike New York City speech, which provided an opportunity for linguistic change because they were willing to accept it, change their and maintain the use of the new feature (insertion of "r" in "bear" or "beard."

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