Exploring Individual Patterns of FACE Across the Lifespan in North Eastern English

This poster presents a longitudinal study on the realization of FACE (Wells 1982) by a dyad of young female speakers from the North East of England. The study highlights possible language change patterns in emerging adulthood (Arnett 2004), as it follows two graduate students into professional life. This pair of speakers was recorded in three maximally stable sociolinguistic interviews with the same interviewer over the course of nine years. They were interviewed as university students (2010), PhD student/teacher (2014) and, eventually, as a university lecturer/established teacher (2019) respectively.
Recordings were fully transcribed in ELAN, and variation in FACE was coded auditorily. Results show two very different patterns across the lifespan for these two participants. For the first speaker, Chloe, statistically significant changes in her linguistic choices can be observed. She has increased her monophthongal realizations of FACE to an almost categorical extent. This finding is in line with Watt (2002) noting an increase in supralocal (and RP) variants at the cost of the regional form [ɪə], with the changes driven by young female speakers. Although Chloe never produces regional variants in the three interviews, she still increases monophthongal FACE and is, thus, in line with the ongoing trend in the community, indicating lifespan change (e.g., Sankoff 2005, Sankoff & Blondeau 2007). The second speaker, Lynn, produces the majority of her tokens as monophthongs and remains relatively stable in her patterns at the three time points.
Possible explanations of the FACE patterns observed can be found in the context of the individual speaker’s trajectory and in qualitative analyses. Even though Chloe has been upwardly mobile, she refrains from the variant that carries overt prestige, i.e. [eɪ]. This can be understood as expressing allegiance with the North East of England (Haddican et al. (2013) delineate similar patterns for speakers in York), since the speaker notes a preference for future employment within the area. The other speaker, Lynn, has maintained her social status and works at a school in the working-class community she grew up in by the time of the second interview. Her linguistic choices can be interpreted in respect to the marketplace pressures (Bourdieu & Boltanski 1975) she is exposed to at her local school. In the interviews, she reflects on the pressures to perform linguistic likeness in order to be respected by the students.
This study contributes to research on emerging adulthood, drawing conclusions from the speakers’ trajectories and the community-wide trends they are exposed to. It also shows that speakers from the same area can of course pattern differently, likely conditioned by their professional environment.


Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. 2004. Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre & Luc Boltanski. 1975. Le fétichisme de la langue. Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 4. 2-32.
Haddican, Bill; Foulkes, Paul; Hughes, Vincent & Hazel Richards. 2013. Interaction of social and linguistic constraints on two changes in northern England. Language Variation and Change 25. 371-403.
Sankoff, Gillian. 2005. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies in sociolinguistics. In Ulrich Ammon, Norbert Dittmar, Klaus J. Mattheier & Peter Trudgill (eds.), An international handbook of the science of language and society. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 1003-1013.
Sankoff, Gillian & Hélèn Blondeau. 2007. Language Change Across the Lifespan: /r/ in Montreal French. Language 83(3). 560-588.
Watt, Dominic. 2002. ‘I don’t speak with a Geordie accent, I speak, like, the Northern accent’: Contact-induced levelling in the Tyneside vowel system. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6(1). 44-63.
Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English I. An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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