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It's Been Said Before

By Orin Hargraves

It's Been Said Before "examines why certain phrases become clichés and why they should be avoided -- or why they still have life left in them."

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By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: Revisiting transmission and diffusion: An agent-based model of vowel chain shifts across large communities
Author: James N. Stanford
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Dartmouth College
Author: Laurence A. Kenny
Institution: Dartmouth College
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In this study, we present the first agent-based simulation of vowel chain shifts across large communities, providing a parsimonious reinterpretation of Labov's (2007) notions of transmission, diffusion, and incrementation. Labov determined that parent-to-child transmission faithfully reproduces structural patterns such as the Northern Cities Shift (NCS), but adult-to-adult diffusion does not. NCS is transmitted faithfully to new generations of U.S. Inland North children. But St. Louis speakers, depending only on adult-adult contact, only attain an incomplete, unsystematic version. Labov (2007) attributed the difference to children's superior language-learning ability; transmission and diffusion are categorically different processes in that approach. By contrast, our multiagent simulation suggests that such transmission/diffusion effects can be derived by simple density of interactions and simple exemplar learning; we also find that incrementation is a natural outcome of this model. Unlike Labov (2007), this model does not require a dichotomy between transmission and diffusion. While dichotomous assumptions about child versus adult learning may be necessary in other contexts, our results suggest that the NCS effects in Labov (2007) may be explained economically in terms of simple density of interactions between speakers. Our results also provide an agent-based perspective supporting and explicating the notion of speech community.


This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 25, Issue 2.

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