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Hi. In the previous video, I introduced you to some of the basic
concepts of social linguistics. We looked at how languages change,
how they vary and why that's important. Why it's important for us,
as students of language and why it's maybe important for
language itself. And now,
we're going to look at one specific case. We're going to move to one particular
city in the world, Philadelphia, on the East Coast of America, where
one small, tiny, little thing changed. People started pronouncing the vowel ou in
south, more in the front of their mouth. They started saying south in the front
of their mouth in the course of time. The question is, the very simple
question is, how did this happen? How did people make this change? And that question drew the attention of probably the world's most famous
social linguist, William Labov. He worked in Philadelphia and he started
following this particular change. We're going to look at some of his results
and I think that it shows how even this one small change can teach us many
things about how language functions. I will show you how this change worked, based on a few graphs which I
took from Labov's own work. The first graph is actually
a very simple one. You see it here,
it's basically just a straight line. On the X-axis,
you see different age groups. So, you see the people under 20,
between 20 and 29, et cetera. And then, the oldest group in this particular
case are people between 50 and 59. On the Y-axis, you see some measure. It doesn't really matter what it is
exactly, but it's some measure for how far in the front
the vowel ou is pronounced. So, the higher the bar,
the more to the front of the mouth. So people under 20, they do it the most. That's why the bar is highest. People between 50 and 59, do it the least. This is very simple graph, but
it's already very telling, because it shows us something, for
instance, about language acquisition. Every generation does
it a little bit more. The change doesn't happen just abruptly. It's not like overnight, all of a sudden,
people do it in a different way. Every generation, every 10 years,
people do it a little bit more. The second dimension is a little bit more
complicated, but actually also much more fun. It's more complicated because
we add an extra dimension, a third dimension to our graph. This is the dimension of class. So differences, like the difference
between lower class and upper class. Those differences are usually defined
in terms of annual income, or your level of education, or
some combination of those things. That's what Labov did, as well. Now, if we add that to our graph,
we get something like this. What you see here again is
an X-axis which represent age. And an, a Y-axis which represents,
lets say frontness of this ou vowel. The lines in this graph
represent the different classes. So, you see LWC on top which
means lower working class, and right at the bottom,
you see UC which means upper class. There's many lines. Lets concentrate on the bottom two. So, the one which says UC and the one
which says LMC, lower middle class. One thing which is striking about
them is that they are parallel. What that means is both classes change. Younger people in both classes do more
fronting, do more eo than older people do. Both of them do that. But still, they keep their distance and actually they keep their
distance quite precisely. So, the difference between an upper class
and a lower middle class person from age, let's say, 40, is the same as
the difference between an upper class and a lower middle class person from,
let's say, 60. So, they've both changed in some way,
but they have kept the distance. So somehow, it means that for
acquisition, children don't just observe that the change is going on, but they must
even observe that there are differences between people which somehow
correspond to this notion of class. And I must respect those differences. Okay, now, the fun starts. Because we're going to add
gender to the equation, the difference between men and women. That's giving us a graph like this one. Again, the X-axis represents age, the Y-axis represents how front in
the mouth this vowel is pronounced. The interesting thing is,
we see two lines. The upper line, the upper line represents
women, the lower line represents men. That's already quite surprising. It's amazing, I would say. So, the women are ahead of the men. Why is that? It's actually, it seems to be the case that a man of
25 speaks more less like a woman of 40. Why? Why, what, what's happening here? And there's another thing
we can see in this graph. And this is that for women,
the line is almost completely straight. That means, we can tell the difference
in age between two women basically if we just know their difference in how
front they pronounce this one vowel. Why is that? And why, if we look at the,
the graph for the men, why don't we find the same pattern? Actually, for
men it looks more like a staircase. It looks like you find this
plateau between, well, you can see between the age of 20 and 50. All men speak more or less the same. Why is that? Labov gave, I think,
a very interesting explanation for all of these three
things at the same time. This is the explanation. It has something to do with the way
in which we learn language. The first step, both for men and women,
is learning the language of your parents, learning the language of your mother,
that would be in most cases. Especially, you'll have to know that
these data are mostly from the 1970s. So, at that time in particular,
most people would learn first, the language of their mother. Now, that's where man would stay. They would learn the language
of their mother and they would keep their
ou vowel in that way. For women something would change. When? At the age of around five, six,
the age when they would enter school. There's a social difference between
men and women at that point, we know. For girls, their so-called
peer-group becomes more important. The other girls in their
class become very important. So, boys just learn the langauge of
their mother, and they stay put. Girls learn the language of their mother,
and then, they get into this peer group. And suppose they observe,
there's some girl who starts pronouncing this ou in a funny way for
some reason. Maybe, there's something
wrong with her mouth. She does it for some reason. The other girls observe it and
they start following her. That's how it starts. They start following her. New girls arrive and
they see that many girls do this. They observe that girls speak
differently from their mother, and that's what they want to do as well. They start speaking
like those other girls. And at that point,
there's always a tendency for overshoot. They will do it just a little bit more. A tiny, tiny little bit more,
but those tiny, tiny little bit, bits start accumulating,
and you get a change. And a gradual change,
a change which goes on and on and on. But at some point,
it has to stop because you cannot pronounce the eo vowel
any further than that. But otherwise, this will go on for,
well, quite some time. You've seen it. For at least 60 years, this can continue. So, that's the girls. And that's why the girls
are this nice straight line. And every year new girls
arrive in school and start speaking like the other girls,
and over-shooting. We also understand why
the boys are behind. They are literally behind. They are literally one generation behind. They literally speak like their mothers. So, what's happening to the men? Why aren't they arranged
in this nice straight line? And instead of that,
we find something like a plateau. Well, look at this plateau. It's there between the age of 20 and
the age of 50, approximately. What does that mean? Why this particular age range? Well that,
according to the theory is the age for which men social life
becomes more important. So, it's not this very early age,
children, but it's this age. What happens? They have a career. What happens during a career? Well, everybody starts
behaving in the same way. Everybody starts behaving
like the average man. What's the average man for
people between 20 and 60? Well, that's obviously somebody between or
of the age of 40. Again, I mean you have to realize
that this is old research. It's research of the 1970s,
maybe something has changed now. This was the time,
when apparently men had a career and women didn't in
the United States of America. And then, you can actually see in the
graph that, after this, so when they turn about 60, when they retire, they go back
to their own normal way of speaking. The career is no longer so
important for them. What this study shows then, and I think it
shows it in, in a really, an amazing way, is that really, variation and
change are two sides of the same coin. So, that is, I think, one,
actually one of the many interesting examples of this combination
of variation and change. There's obviously still many questions to
be asked about it, and I'm going to talk about some of these questions with
Marten and Inge in the next video.

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