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Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization

  • Derek Denis (a1), Matt Hunt Gardner (a2), Marisa Brook (a3) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (a3)


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.



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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.



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