Language Variation and Change

A young woman waving out of an open car window, and another image of the same woman when much older, wearing a crown and waving out the window of a state coach.

Linguists have documented the ways in which Queen Elizabeth II's accent, often regarded as a standard for formal spoken English, changed over the first six decades of her reign. (Left: public domain photo courtesy of Queensland State Archives on Flickr. Right: photo courtesy of Michael Garnett on Flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA.)


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Spring 2019



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Course Description

All languages vary across geographic space and between social groups, and languages are always changing. It makes sense to study these phenomena together because they are intimately related: language change is the basic source of language variation. So studying language change can help us to understand variation, and the nature of linguistic variation provides evidence as to how language changes. Both illuminate the nature of grammar. The course will focus largely on variation and change in phonetics and phonology, and most case studies will be drawn from the English language.

Related Content

Edward Flemming. 24.914 Language Variation and Change. Spring 2019. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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