Language change across the lifespan: /r/ in Montreal French

We address the articulation between language change in the historical sense and language change as experienced by individual speakers through a trend and panel study of the change from apical to dorsal /r/ in Montreal French. The community as a whole rapidly advanced its use of dorsal [R]. Most individual speakers followed across time were stable after the critical period, with phonological patterns set by the end of adolescence. A sizeable minority, however, made substantial changes. The window of opportunity for linguistic modification in later life may be expanded with rapid change in progress when linguistic variables take on social significance.