The Process of Age-Grading

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Age, as Chamber (1995: 159) suggests plays an ‘autocratic role’ which not only causes changes in physical features but also in people’s speech, therefore, there are a different speech patterns corresponding to every stage of life. Those changes are characteristic of growth, increasing and decreasing through the different stages and help to distinguish different age cohorts groups from each other. This process is known as Age-Grading.

Coulmas (2005: 52) states that every generation needs to change their language in order to ‘suit their experiences’. However, the different speeches found in each stage are complementary, providing a wider view of the changes in the individual speech patterns, and consequently, being variants within the speech of that age group. According to Eckert (1997: 151), those variations must be stable, regular, predictable, and as Chambers (1995:201) defines them: ‘[C]hanges that might be thought of as marking a developmental stage in the individual’s life.’ Furthermore, Meyerhoff (2006: 145) points out that ‘…there is no ongoing shift towards or away from one variant or another.’ Additionally, it is necessary to clarify that age-grading does not lead to a change in progress. There is not a progressive direction in this process; on the contrary, fluctuations and peaks are a constant.

Age-grading is noticeable in the development of an individual’s speech, where every stage has its own linguistic characteristics over a particular period of time, and where other variants might be involved, class, gender, style, etc... A child’s speech lacks social interaction and language might be still in the process of being acquired. There is a repetitive use of words such as: daddy, mommy, among others. In adolescent, language evolves. Young people are passing through a period of transition, being more independent and where peers fill an important position, influencing their speech. There is a necessity to be distinctive, and vocabulary is an...
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