A sociolinguistic perspective on vocabulary richness in a seven-year comparison of older adults

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Vocabulary richness is known to either stay stable or increase into old age. The sociolinguistic aspects of related phenomena have not been studied intensely until now. We analyse a corpus of spoken French in two series of interviews, guided in 2005 and 2012, with 28 participants living their later life. We included three measures of vocabulary richness that demonstrated significant sociolinguistic relevance. The growth rate differed significantly with the portion of high-frequency elements such as fillers diminishing from the first to the second series. The reduction of ‘redundant’ elements can be seen as an effective way to maintain the perception of fluency in speech even if its production is cognitively and somatically more expensive.


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