Sarah Kirk Browne

Thesis title:

100 Years of Continuity and Change in Spoken British English (CASE project with the British Library)


Sarah’s 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.

First supervisor:

Devyani Sharma

CASE partner:

British Library


7 – Linguistics, Media & Culture