Media and language change

Expanding the framework

Authored by: Jannis Androutsopoulos

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Media

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138014176
eBook ISBN: 9781315673134
Adobe ISBN:


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Recently called “one of the hottest potatoes in early twenty-first century sociolinguistics” (Sayers 2014: 187), the role of media in linguistic change has been on the discipline’s agenda since the 1980s and has accelerated in the past decade. In public discourse on language, the media has often been assumed to have an influence on language use or been held responsible for declining standards of usage, especially among the young (Moschonas 2014; Thurlow 2006). While language scholars have distanced themselves from such assumptions, they offer different, even contradictory suggestions on the issue. In German-language scholarship, for example, linguists have suggested that television can have various kinds of impact on ordinary language use: promoting the spread of standard language, accelerating dialect leveling, increasing awareness of regional and social dialects, favoring norm relaxation in public usage, and boosting the diffusion of neologisms and linguistic fads (Holly 1995; Schmitz 2004; Brandt 2000). However, empirical evidence for these suggestions is thin. In Anglophone sociolinguistics, the predominant position is that media language has no impact on phonological or grammatical language change (Chambers 1998; Labov 2001: 228; Trudgill 2014). However, there has been evidence to the contrary (discussed below), and some researchers propose reconsidering the role of media, including digital communication media (Boberg 2000; Tagliamonte 2012; Coupland and Kristiansen 2011). A recent debate on media and language change in the Journal of Sociolinguistics (18(2), 2014) illustrates the range of current views on this issue.

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