Study: Teen Girls Are Responsible For The Continuing Innovation Of Languages

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Young women play a lead role in linguistic changes and criticizing them for it “is just old-fashioned sexism”.

William Labov, the founder of modern sociolinguistics, discovered that 90 percent of linguistic change is led by women, according to Quartz. Labov’s paper on his findings was published 25 years ago, and researchers continue to confirm them.

Shakespeare has been highly regarded to being a great English disruptor. Yet, recent scholars, such as Katherine Martin, head of U.S. Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, questioned how his audience would have understood him if he was introducing dozens of new words in each play. He was likely using language that “his audience was already using”.

Terttu Nevalainen and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg, linguists at the University of Helsinki observed changes in vernacular from 6,000 personal letters written between 1417 and 1681. They found that women reliably adjusted the way they wrote faster than men did. The few exceptions were associated with men’s greater access to education at the time.

Quartz attributed linguistic changes to young women tending to “be more socially aware, more empathetic” and having “larger social networks” which would expose them to “a greater diversity of language innovators”.

Read the full story here.

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