University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Adolescent peaks have been observed across a range of different types of language change (Labov 2001, Tagliamonte and D’Arcy 2009). However, while Labov (2001) finds that peaks are only present in the gender leading the change in phonetic variables, Tagliamonte and D’Arcy (2009) find no gender asymmetry in morphosyntactic and discourse-pragmatic changes. This paper contributes to this issue through an apparent time investigation of TH-fronting in southeast England. Crucially, this is a male-led change, thus presents an ideal opportunity to further investigate the relationship between gender and incrementation. While the results provide further support for the claim that an adolescent peak is a “general requirement of change in progress” (Labov 2001:455), the details of this analysis contribute further understanding of how this process interacts with a form’s embedding within the wider sociolinguistic system. The discussion situates these results within broader universals of language change and how incrementation relates to another developmental sociolinguistic process: the acquisition of variation.