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William Labov: ""Sound Change: the regular, the unconscious, the mysterious""

Wann 15.05.2009
von 10:15 bis 12:00
Wo Universität, Aula
Teilnehmer öffentlich
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Prof. William Labov (University of Pennsylvania)


Sound Change: the regular, the unconscious, the mysterious

In his Introduction to the Principles, Paul argued, "The great resemblance of all linguistic processes in the most different individuals is the most essential foundation for an exact scientific knowledge of these processes." We now have the techniques that are needed to carry out Paul's program for the study of linguistic change. The Atlas of North American English provides us with 134,000 measurements of vowel systems, which allow us to investigate rapid changes in progress across the lexicon and across the continent. Studies of the fronting of long-u and long-o, and the raising of short-a show the high degree of regularity that Paul would predict from his studies of historical regularity. These changes also have the completely unconscious character that Paul maintained was characteristic of sound change. However, the uniformity of these changes across vast areas, moving large populations in the same direction, remains mysterious. The social consensus that Paul projected, and we observe in North America, does not follow easily from the psychology of the individual. Accounting for this uniformity remains a major task for the study of linguistic change.