Real-Time Language Change "The Moral Essay

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Using the past to understand the future becomes a key element of what real-time assessments have to offer (Turell, 2003:7).

In many ways, this approach is favored because it mirrors many of the techniques that quality social sciences expect to have value. Returning to groups or places many years later and looking at what they did is one way to achieve a level of authenticity, as might be turning directly to the same people who were previously studied. Sampling and replication studies where considered good models for this kind of review (Turell, 2003:8). But so too, if they could be found, would be actual data collection archives. These types of "dialect atlases" have begun to be uncovered, only to discover that the complexity of what they have to offer still puts them outside of the reach of helpful review (Auer and Schmidt, 2009:204). Local atlases in France, Germany and Italy have begun to be examined to offer supraregional indications of what may have happened since about the turn of the century. Truly dynamic atlases of this type "do not just permit a comparison over time but systematically present directly comparable linguistic data collected at different times" (Auer and Schmidt, 2009:204). These types of diachronic options offer far greater possibilities for looking back and will likely begin to be used to look at the details in the future if some of the challenges of using the data can be overcome (Vogt, 2009:254).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Real-Time Language Change "The Moral Assignment

But then again, why use the data of the past when the data of the future can not only be collected more easily but can literally be created and tested as the creation unfolds? Computerized technologies of all sorts have begun to offer new models where the minutia of change can be accounted for and monitored as it happens. For one thing, there is evidence that our ability to monitor and even simulate change practices can directly off-set serious logistical limitations that even real-time studies poses (such as costs, drop-out rates, time influences, etc.) Vogt's 2009 paper on the benefits of the evolution of modeling simulations essentially gets to this point and provides demonstrations of the greater value of these methodologies in looking back and forward. It may well be possible for the first time to use synchronic approaches to literally watch the processes of change occur instead of by observing the resultant outcomes (Faygal et al., 2010:3).

Gao (2008) offers one of the most direct assessments of a way to watch this change process unfold by looking at Chinese netizens (Internet citizens) who have begun using this medium in their own ways, dramatically changing and highlighting language adjustments that have been forced to happen very rapidly because of the nature of the equipment. Even though he used data and information from the 1990s and early 2000s, he was already noting that "The rapid development of Internet communication in mainland China has created huge impact on the Chinese language" (Gao, 2008:362). He notes that, just as importantly, the changes that are being brought about in this way include new and modified lexical usages, unique syntactic alterations and unusual discursive habits. And most of these changes were being developed by people under the age of 35 -- or what is at least arguably part of the beginning of the theoretical "S" stage of innovation that would likely not just be experimented with but that would ultimately remain part of the formal language as it was accepted by the more conservative groups of speakers (Gao, 2008:364).

The promises of Gao's work have implications for both apparent and real-time models. It is possible to selected highly targeted groups that are synchronic at the same time that truly dynamic diachronic projections can be made and literally modeled as they happen. The works of researchers such as Fagyal et al. that have already been discussed are particularly exciting in this regard. First, it looks at the true implications of social networking and what happens when language change occurs within small, selected and perhaps socially rewarded groups of people who have the ability to lead others. In addition, technological networks have the capacity for seeing how iconic and idiosyncratic changes work their way into use and why certain seemingly unusual changes might be favored over others that should become less used as people get older and settle into the "S" curve that is under development. The agents involved in these situations do not lose touch with the expectations identified in the past but do so by establishing their own types of collective conditions for change. Like Britain (2003) suggested in his study of New Zealand English, the changes that set in did not occur in isolation and were dependent upon the real uses of language by real people who had their own form of credibility. Says Fagyal et al. In a summary of their experimental conditions:

The lack of highly-connected agents, structural equivalents of leaders in empirical studies, results in failure of appearance of norms. The absence of isolated individuals, or loners, leads to lack of innovation. No norm emerges when members ignore, or do not share a common view of, the popularity of individuals they imitate (2010:17).

Agent-based modeling is a new perspective that is highly oriented toward the realities of period effects and implications (Vogt, 2009). In a way, with the help of technology, the actions of individuals are crossing over most directly with social change. This method seeks to overcome many of the static assumptions of both the apparent and real-time outlooks because computerized technologies (and other mass communication and media impacts) factor together language and social change. Sociolinguistic change, as Coupland has referred to this, enables a different, perhaps deeper appreciation for these constructs:

Whether or not linguistic repertoires change substantially over time, we have to ask how individuals and groups perceptually segment those repertoires at any given point in time and in different social contexts, and how they may reallocate values and meanings to existing styles and valorize new ones (2010:73).


Auer, P. And Schmidt, J.E. (2009). Language and space: An international handbook of linguistic variation, vol. 1. In Theories and Methods. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Britain, D. (2008). When is a chance not a change?: a case study on the dialect origins of New Zealand English. Department of Language and Linguistics. Essex University. Viewable

Coupland, N. (2010). Language, ideology, media and social change. Performing the Self. SPELL: Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature 24. Ed. Karen Junod and Didier Maillat. Tubingen: Narr.

Fagyal, Z., et al., (2010). Centers and peripheries: Network roles in language change. Lingua, doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2010.02.001.

Gao, L. (2008). Language change in progress: evidence from computer-mediated communications. Proceedings of the 20th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL-20). 2008. Volume 1. Edited by Marjorie K.M. Chan and Hana Kang. Columbus, Ohio: The Ohio State University, pp. 361-377.

Kallel, A. (2002). The age variable in the rise of periphrastic 'do' in English. Reading Working Papers in Linguistics 6, pp. 161-185.

Matsuda, K. (2002). Constant-rate hypothesis, age-grading and apparent time construct. Viewable at

Turell, M.T. (2003). Apparent and real time in studies of linguistic change and variation. Noves SL. Revista de Sociolinguistica. Viewable at

Vogt, Paul (2009) "Modeling Interactions… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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