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Language Acquisition and ChangeA Morphosyntactic Perspective$
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Jurgen Meisel, Martin Elsig, and Esther Rinke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748642250

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748642250.001.0001

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Language change across the lifespan

Language change across the lifespan

(p.20) Chapter 2 Language change across the lifespan
Language Acquisition and Change

Meisel Jurgen M.

Elsig Martin

Rinke Esther

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores the predictive similarities between UG-based and variationist approaches concerning phenomena of language change, in particular the observation that both core grammatical knowledge and the interplay of environmental factors conditioning linguistic variation become consolidated during the process of first language acquisition as a result of intergenerational transmission. Focussing on different patterns of language change (generational change, communal change, age grading, and lifespan change), we provide and discuss evidence that adult speakers do not restructure their grammars, nor do they show profound changes regarding the constraints conditioning variation in language use. Apparent linguistic changes at an advanced age can be shown not to affect the speakers’ systemic linguistic knowledge. On the other hand, many instances of syntactic language change turn out, upon closer inspection, to involve lexical change rather than a reorganization of the grammar. This is exemplified by the different word order variants in Quebec French yes/no questions.

Keywords:   transmission, diffusion, generational change, lifespan change, yes/no questions

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