Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper


The theme of this paper if the nature of explanation in diachronic linguistics in general, and for sound change in particular. Explaining sound change by appeal to rules raises questions about the source of the change, the mechanism of the change itself, and the motivation for its spread. To answer these fundamental questions, I turn to evidence from studies of child language acquisition, experimental phonology, and sociolinguistics. In the paper, I review various approaches to explaining sound change; I argue that the source and the mechanism of sound change is variability in perception and production particularly during language acquisition, and I adopt the view that the spread of a change can be explained by sociolinguistic factors.



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