Phonological variation in real time

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This study uses an archive of publicly broadcast speech to investigate whether speakers are linguistically stable throughout adulthood. A sample of twelve speakers with recorded speech spanning at least thirty years were analyzed with regard to the variable production of syllable-initial (wh). Each speaker’s production at single points in time was contrasted with their production at other times; the analysis shows that the speakers generally show stability in their production of the variable. However, a majority of the speakers have at least one point in time in which their production deviates significantly, and often to a large degree, leading to the conclusion that we cannot simply assume that individuals are linguistically stable throughout their adult lives.


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