generation y: teenagers as leaders of language change

Generation Y is a British Academy Small Grants Scheme funded project (2017-19) investigating the role teenagers play in driving language change.

More than a simple rite of passage, teenage rebellion is the driving force of cultural innovation. Language change works in the same way - children reject the linguistic models set by their parents just as they reject their taste in clothes and music. However, to date this process has not been investigated directly through charting the same individuals over time.

This project addresses this gap by providing the necessary longitudinal perspective. This is achieved through the creation of a real-time corpus of speech data which targets the phase between childhood and adolescence.

The same individuals who were interviewed aged 8-10 in 2012 will be interviewed again aged 13-15 in 2017. Through comparing their language over the two time points, and focusing on a range of features known to be in a process of ongoing change, it is possible to observe how individual development contributes to community wide patterns of language change. In other words, how teenagers' linguistic rebellion drives language change.