University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


To better diagnose language change vs. stable variation, we must clarify their differences – a critical endeavor especially for variables that may change very slowly over long time periods, where an Apparent Time approach may not reveal clues to change in progress. Wallenberg and Fruehwald (2013) propose the Continuity Hypothesis: that stable variables should be constrained by at least one continuous factor; we provide a stringent test of this hypothesis, analyzing 38 dependent variables from articles published in Language Variation and Change. Of the 23 ‘changing’ variables analyzed, none was reported to be constrained by continuous factors; of the 8 ‘stable’ variables analyzed, only one was found not to be associated with factors that could be treated as continuous. This significant distinction (Fisher’s Exact Test, p