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Television can also be a factor in language change: Evidence from an urban dialect

From: Language
Volume 89, Number 3, September 2013
pp. 501-536 | 10.1353/lan.2013.0041



This article considers two instances of rapidly accelerating linguistic change in Glaswegian vernacular, th -fronting and l-vocalization , both typically associated with the Cockney dialect of London. Both changes have been underway for some time, but took off during the 1990s. In this article we consider a range of factors that are contributing to the rapid proliferation of these forms in the speech of inner-city Glaswegian adolescents. Our multivariate analysis shows very strong effects for linguistic factors, as well as strong positive correlations with social practices relating to local Glaswegian street style, some links with dialect contact with friends and family living in England, and—perhaps surprisingly—also positive correlations with strong psychological engagement with the London-based TV soap drama EastEnders. Our results suggest that the changes are being propelled by several processes: ongoing transmission and at the same time continuing diffusion through dialect contact; the local social meanings carried by these variants for these speakers; and strong engagement with a favorite TV drama. For this community at least, engaging with a favorite TV drama is an additional accelerating factor in rapid linguistic diffusion.

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