100 Years of Continuity and Change in Spoken British English

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Languages Linguistics and Film


This collaborative doctoral project will compile a diachronic corpus of sound recordings from the historic
holdings of the British Library Sound Archive, an unparalleled collection of natural British speech
spanning over a century. The corpus design will aim for a balanced selection across region, register and
demographic factors while maximising time depth. Using this unique corpus, the project will investigate a
fundamental theoretical challenge in the study of language change: What is the relative importance of
linguistic factors, frequency and social factors in changes observed in British English over time?
This question has been difficult to address fully so far due to the lack of audio archives with sufficient time
depth. Recent historical corpora have begun to remedy this, leading to some unexpected findings
regarding the role of frequency in phonetic change (Hay et al. 2015) and intensifying the debate over the
relative role of frequency in large-scale dialect change (Labov 2010; Kiparsky 2016). A substantial
diachronic corpus will also permit deeper investigation of related themes such as vernacular stability,
social factors in change (age, demographics, gender, class) and co-variation in change.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1917992 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 28/09/2025 Sarah Kirk-Browne