Age-related variation and language change in Early Modern English

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Focusing on the age variable in real-time language change, my paper traces age-related variation among people taking part in several ongoing changes. More specifically, I examine the age-related patterns characteristic of linguistically progressive and conservative individuals in the English language community in the 15th and 16th century. The data come from the database created for the Quantifying Change project, based on the Corpus of Early English Correspondence. It is shown that we may need to reconsider any sharp distinction between generational and communal change, and pay more attention to the kind, phase and duration of the change in progress, on the one hand, and its social evaluation, on the other.


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