Saturday, December 16, 2017

... on Nature and Spread of Language Change (quora)

How do changes spread within a language?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
This is interesting.

Let us take one simple change, like Scanian changing retroflex or Italian to uvular or French R.

There are at least three generations involved in the change, one in which the old form prevails undisputedly, one in which the two forms exist side by side and then one in which the new form rules undisputedly.

Then again, within the change, there is a period in which the new form is rare, one in which they are about equal and one in which the old form is rare.

Then again, there is another aspect, that of spreading from environment to environmnent, first at a few places, then at about half, then at most or nearly most within a region. Or, linguistic environments, the change probably starts in one word, spreads to words where the sound has a similar position (in Scania all Rs are uvular, but in Småland, only initial Rs are so) and then spreads to all other positions (of those it spreads to).

As long as it is being spread as a novelty or as one version, and not yet as the new and undisputed norm, speakers can make choices about it.

When they come outside of Scania they also make choices. Some Scanians moving to Stockholm region would retain their Scanian R, some on the other hand switch to the Stockholm version.

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