Changes from below and from above

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Abstract / Description of output

One of the empirical approaches to understanding the processes and mechanisms that drive language change has been the introduction of the Apparent Time study, or, the observation that active changes proceeding in Real Time can be observed synchronically by comparing patterns of language production between younger and older generations of the same speech community (Labov 1966; see also Chapter 14). Motivated by the arguments set out by Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog (1968; WLH, see Chapter 1), Apparent Time studies seek to detail the constraints on these ‘changes in progress’, how they transition over time, how they embed in the broader language structure and social structure, how they are evaluated by language users, and how they go to completion (or reverse, as the case may be). The pursuit of these research questions has led to the claim that there are two distinct kinds of language change that are differentiated with respect to all of WLH’s ‘problems’ – constraints, transition, embedding, and evaluation – as well as “the actuation problem…the very heart of the matter” (Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog 1968: 102). This claim now represents one of the most well-known contributions of variationist sociolinguistics to the field of diachronic linguistics: the distinction ‘change from above’ and ‘change from below’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Blackwell Companion to Diachronic Linguistics
EditorsEdith Aldridge, Anne Breitbarth, Katalin É. Kiss, Adam Ledgeway, Alexandra Simonenko, Joseph Salmons
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Aug 2023

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