Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-p6h7k Total loading time: 0.482 Render date: 2022-05-24T19:37:22.485Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2019

Derek Denis
University of Toronto Mississauga
Matt Hunt Gardner
Saint Mary's University
Marisa Brook
University of Toronto
Sali A. Tagliamonte
University of Toronto


A key component of Labov's (2001:411) socially motivated projection model of language change is the hypothesis that adolescents and preadolescents undergo a process of vernacular reorganization, which leads to a “seamless” progression of changes in progress. Between the ages of approximately five and 17, children and adolescents increase the “frequency, extent, scope, or specificity” of changes in progress along the community trajectory (Labov, 2007:346). Evidence of advancement via vernacular reorganization during this life stage has come from peaks in the apparent-time trajectory of a change around the age of 17 (e.g., Labov, 2001; Tagliamonte & D'Arcy, 2009). However, such peaks do not rule out the alternative explanations of retrograde change or age-grading. This paper presents both apparent time and real-time evidence for vernacular reorganization. We observe the arrowhead formation—a counterpart of the adolescent peak—for quotative be like in a trend study of adolescents and young adults in Toronto, Canada. Our results rule out the alternative explanations for previously observed adolescent peaks.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


This research was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for research grants and doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships from 2001 to the present. We have benefited greatly from discussion of these ideas with Alex D'Arcy, Bill Labov, and Charles Yang. We also thank audiences in Pittsburgh (NWAV42), Philadelphia (UPenn), Málaga (ICLaVE9), and Toronto (Changement et Variation au Canada 7, Language Variation and Change research group, and Society of Linguistics Undergraduate Students) for comments and critiques. The main structure and content of this paper came together in the form of several lectures in LIN451/1151 Urban Dialectology 2015 at the University of Toronto. The first author would like to thank the students in that course. We also thank our anonymous reviewers for helping us to refine our arguments. Any errors are, of course, our own. Lastly, this work was not possible without the sociolinguistic interviewing skills of students in LIN351, 2013 at University of Toronto: Al-Hawra Al-Saad, Shakeera Baker, Matthew Barozzino, Anjanie Brijpaul, Sarah Cao, Kwan Chan, Judy Chau, Jasmine Po Yan Choi, Suekyoung Choi, Annita Chow, Yeogai Choy, Leif Conti-Groome, Susana Coto, Naomi Cui, Joel Dearden, Alice Dutheil, Younghoon Eom, Izzy Erlich, Neil Fletcher Hoving, Dylan Fotiadis, Samantha Fowler, Leor Freedman, Paula Garces, Francesca Granata, Norhan Haroun, Jangho Hong, Rong Huang, Yanling Huang, Sherry Hucklebridge, Chia-Tzu Juan, Yerbol Kerimov, Sherina Khan, Parisa Khosraviani, Caroline Kramer, Ophelia Kwong, Brian Lang, Victor LeFort, Jian Li, Shengnan Li, Jennifer Li, Yayun Liang, Samantha Pei-Hsuan Lu, Grace Lui, Kit Lui, Hanna Lyle, Julienne Mackay, Vanessa Mak, Eula Mangantulao, Bianca Masalin-Basi, Jonathan Mastrogiacomo, Robin McLeod, Denise Medina, Trista Mueller, Anoja Nagarajah, Diana Nicholls, Jungwook Park, Tae Park, Victoria Peter, Jennifer Pratt, Monty Preston, Assad Quraishi, Philipp Rechtberger, Maria Recto, Heather Regasz-Rethy, Kristen Santos, Louise Shen, Maksym Shkvorets, Brianna Stein, Patricia Thompson, Stephanie Travassos, Khoa Tu, Yi Wang, Luke West, Ravi Wood, Jessica Yeung, and Sung-Jun Yoon.


Altmann, Gabiel, von Buttlar, Haro, Rott, Walter, & Strauss, Udo. (1983). A law of change in language. In Brainerd, B. (ed.), Historical linguistics. Bochum: Brockmeyer. 104115.Google Scholar
Ash, Sherry. (1982). The vocalization of /l/ in Philadelphia. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Bates, Douglas, Maechler, Martin, Bolker, Ben, & Walker, Steve. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. Journal of Statistical Software 67:148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bates, Douglas, Kliegl, Reinhold, Vasishth, Shravan, & Baayen, Harald. (2015). Parsimonious mixed models. Available from arXiv:1506.04967 (stat.ME). []Google Scholar
Baxter, Gareth, & Croft, William. (2016). Modeling language change across the lifespan: Individual trajectories in community change. Language Variation and Change 28:129173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brook, Marisa, Konnelly, Lex, Jankowski, Bridget L. & Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2018) “I don't come off as timid anymore”: Real time change in early adulthood against the backdrop of the community. Journal of Sociolinguistics 22:351374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Buchstaller, Isabelle & D'Arcy, Alexandra. (2009). Localized globalization: A multi-local, multivariate investigation of quotative be like. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13:291331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cedergren, Henrietta J. (1973). The interplay of social and linguistic factors in Panama. Doctoral dissertation, Cornell University.Google Scholar
Cedergren, Henrietta J. (1984). Panama Revisited: Sound Change in Real Time. Paper given at NWAVE, Philadelphia, 1984.Google Scholar
Cedergren, Henrietta J. (1988). The spread of language change: Verifying inferences of linguistic diffusion. In Lowenberg, P. (ed.), Language spread and language policy: Issues, implications, and case studies. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 4560.Google Scholar
Chae, Seo-Yong. (1995). External constraints on sound change: the rising of /o/ in Seoul Korean. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Chambers, J. K. (2002). Dynamics of dialect convergence. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6:117130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chambers, J. K. (2003). Sociolinguistic theory: Linguistic variation and its social significance. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Chambers, J. K., & Hardwick, Margaret F. (1985). Dialect homogeneity and incipient variation: change in progress in Toronto and Vancouver. In Harris, J. & Hawkins, R. (eds.), Sheffield Working Papers in Language and Linguistics 2. Sheffield: School of Modern Languages and Linguistics, University of Sheffield. 2849.Google Scholar
Cheshire, Jenny, Kerswill, Paul, Fox, Sue, & Torgersen, Eivind. (2011). Contact, the feature pool, and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15:151196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
D'Arcy, Alexandra. (2015). Variation, transmission, incrementation. In Honeybone, P. & Salmons, J. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology. Oxford: Oxford University. 583602.Google Scholar
Denis, Derek. (2015). The development of pragmatic markers in Canadian English. Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
Denison, David. (2003). Logistic and simplistic S-curves. In Hickey, R. (ed.), Motives for language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 5470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Devitt, Amy J. (1989). Standardizing written English: Diffusion in the case of Scotland 1520–1659. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Eckert, Penelope. (1990). Adolescent social categories, information and science learning. In Gardner, M., Greeno, J., Reif, F. & Schoenfeld, A. (eds.), Toward a scientific practice of science education. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum. 203217.Google Scholar
Eckert, Penelope. (2014). The problem with binaries: Coding for gender and sexuality. Language and Linguistics Compass. 8:529535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ely, Richard, Gleason, Jean Berko, Narasimhan, Bhuvaneswari, & McCabe, Allyssa. (1995). Family talk about talk: Mothers lead the way. Discourse Processes 19:201218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fine, Cordelia. (2010). Delusions of gender. New York/London: W. W. Norton and Company.Google Scholar
Foulkes, Paul, Docherty, Gerard, & Watt, Dominic. (2005). Phonological variation in child-directed speech. Language 81:177206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gardner, Matt Hunt. (2017). Grammatical variation and change in industrial Cape Breton. Doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto.Google Scholar
Gardner, Matt Hunt, Denis, Derek, Brook, Marisa, & Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2018). Be like and the constant rate effect: From the bottom to the top. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
Gauchat, Louis. (1905). L'unité phonetique dans le patois d'une commune. In Aus Romanischen Sprachen und Literaturen: Festschrift Heinreich Mort. Halle: M Niemeyer. 175232.Google Scholar
Gleason, Jean Berko, Perlmann, Rivka Y., Ely, Richard, & Evans, D. W. (1994). The baby talk register: Parents’ use of diminutives. In Sokolov, J. L. & Snow, C. E. (eds.), Handbook of research in language using CHILDES. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. 5076.Google Scholar
Haeri, Niloofar. (1996). The sociolinguistic market of Cairo: Gender, class, and education. London: Kegan Paul International.Google Scholar
Hermann, Eduard. (1929). Lautveränderungen in der individualsprache einer Mundart. Nachrichten der Gesellsch. der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Phl.-his. Kll. 11:195214.Google Scholar
Johnson, S. Jacqueline, & Newport, Elissa L. (1989). Critical period efforts in second-language learning: the influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology 21:6099.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kerswill, Paul, & Williams, Ann. (1994). A new dialect in a new city: Children's and adults’ speech in Milton Keynes. Final report to Economic and Social Research Council.Google Scholar
Kerswill, Paul, & Williams, Ann. (2000). Creating a new town Koine: children and language change in Milton Keynes. Language in Society 29:65115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kerswill, Paul, & Williams, Ann. (2005). New towns and koineisation: linguistic and social correlates. Linguistics 43:10231048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kroch, Anthony. (1989). Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language Variation and Change 1:199244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Labov, William. (2001). Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume II: Social Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Labov, William. (2007). Transmission and diffusion. Language 83:344387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Labov, William. (2011). Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume III: Cognitive and Cultural Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Labov, William, Rosenfeler, Ingrid, & Fruehwald, Josef. (2013). One hundred years of sound change in Philadelphia: Linear incrementation, reversal, and reanalysis. Language 89:3065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levey, Stephen. (2016). The role of children in the propagation of discourse-pragmatic change: insights from the acquisition of quotative variation. In Pichler, H. (ed.), Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English: New Methods and Insights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 160181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Matuschek, Hannes, Kliegl, Reinhold, Vasishth, Shravan, Baayen, Harald & Bates, Douglas. (2017). Balancing Type I error and power in linear mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 94:305315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCullough, Elizabeth A., Clopper, Cynthia G., & Wagner, Laura. (2015). Development of locality judgments and implicit language attitudes. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 44, University of Toronto and York University, Toronto, Ontario. Oct. 22–25, 2015.Google Scholar
Ochs, Elinor. (1992). Indexing gender. In Duranti, A. & Goodwin, C. (eds.), Rethinking context: language as an interactive phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 335358.Google Scholar
Paolillo, John C. (2002). Analyzing linguistic variation: Statistical models and methods. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
Pope, Jennifer, Meyerhof, Miriam, & Ladd, D. Robert. (2007). Forty years of language change on Martha's Vineyard. Language 83:615627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reese, Elaine, Haden, Catherine A., & Fivush, Robyn. (1996). Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons: Gender differences in autobiographical reminiscing. Research on Language and Social Interaction 29:2756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Roberts, Julie. (1994). Acquisition of variable rules: (-t, d) deletion and (ing) production in preschool children. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Sankoff, Gillian. (2006). Age: Apparent time and real time. In Brown, K. (ed.), Elsevier Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. 110116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sankoff, Gillian. (2013). Longitudinal studies. In Bayley, R., Cameron, R., & Lucas, C. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 261279.Google Scholar
Sankoff, Gillian, & Blondeau, Hélène. (2007). Language change across the lifespan: /r/ in Montreal French. Language 83:560588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schieffelin, Bambi, & Ochs, Elinor. (eds.) (1986). Language socialization across cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Smith, Jennifer, Durham, Mercedes, & Fortune, Liane. (2007). “Mam, my trousers is fa'in doon!”: Community, caregiver, and child in the acquisition of variation in a Scottish dialect. Language Variation and Change 19:6399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Jennifer. (2017). From parents to peers: Transmission and incrementation in the childhood years. Talk given at University of Toronto, Nov. 11, 2017.Google Scholar
Stanford, James N., Severance, Nathan A., & Baclawski, Kenneth P. Jr. (2014). Multiple vectors of unidirectional change in eastern New England. Language Variation and Change 26:103140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Statistics Canada. (2015). Fertility: Fewer children, older moms. Canadian Mega Trends. Last updated Aug. 24, 2015. URL: <> (accessed August 24, 2015).+(accessed+August+24,+2015).>Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2003–2006). Linguistic changes in Canada entering the 21st century. Research Grant. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). #410-2003-0005Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2006a). So cool, right?”: Canadian English entering the 21st century. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 51:309331.Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2006b). Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2008). So different and pretty cool! Recycling intensifiers in Toronto, Canada. English Language & Linguistics 12:361394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2012). Variationist sociolinguistics: Change, observation, interpretation. Oxford: Wiley.Google Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & Baayen, R. Harald. (2012). Models, forests, and trees of York English: was/were variation as a case study for statistical practice. Language Variation and Change 24:135178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & D'Arcy, Alexandra. (2004). He's like, she's like: The quotative system in Canadian youth. Journal of Sociolinguistics 8:493514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & D'Arcy, Alexandra. (2007). Frequency and variation in the community grammar: Tracking a new change through the generations. Language Variation and Change 19:199217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & D'Arcy, Alexandra. (2009). Peaks beyond phonology: Adolescence, incrementation, and language change. Language 85:58108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagliamonte, Sali A., & Denis, Derek. (2014). Expanding the transmission/diffusion dichotomy: Evidence from Canada. Language 90:90136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wagner, Suzanne Evans. (2008). Language change and stabilization in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Wagner, Suzanne Evans, & Tagliamonte, Sali A. (2018). What makes a panel study work? Researcher and participant in real time. In Wagner, S. E. & Buchstaller, I. (eds.) Panel Studies of Variation and Change. New York: Routledge. 213232.Google Scholar
Weinreich, Uriel, Labov, William, & Herzog, Marvin. (1968). Empirical foundations for a theory of language change. In Lehmann, W. P. & Malkiel, Y. (eds.), Directions for historical linguistics: a symposium. Austin: University of Texas Press. 97195.Google Scholar
Wolf, Clara, & Jiménez, Elena. (1979). El ensordecimiento del yeísmo porteño. In Barrenechea, A. M. (ed.), Estudios lingüísticos y dialectológicos. Buenos Aires: Hachette. 115145.Google Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *