Talk: Investigating Language Change Across the Lifespan in the Context of Jennifer Lopez

still "Jenny from the Block"?

In sociolinguistics, a number of studies have shown that individual speakers do not always maintain their speech patterns after critical period (Labov 1994), although we would expect them to be relative stable in their linguistic choices after puberty. Inspired by the lyrics of the song “Jenny from the Block”, a longitudinal investigation of readily available interviews with U.S. American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez implies that she indeed is one the speakers contesting relative stability in adulthood. This is – from a linguistic point of view – in contrast to her argument that she is “still Jenny from the Block”. The analysis of her realizations of the variable (ING) and the lexical set PRICE (Wells 1982) indicates that Lopez is subject to age-grading, by which speakers produce different language patterns at different life stages (Buchstaller 2006, Wagner 2012). Furthermore, Lopez’s choices for the lexical set TRAP (Wells 1982) in the context of the California vowel shift (Eckert 2004) might depict lifespan change. The findings display that different variables can pattern differently, and that social context plays and important role in these linguistic developments.

Buchstaller, Isabelle. 2006. Diagnostics of age-graded behavior: The case of the quotative system. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(1):3-30.
Eckert, Penelope. 2004. Vowel shifts in Northern California and the South Detroit Suburbs. Accessed 4 March 2020,
Labov, William. 1994. Principles of Linguistic Change: Internal Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.
Wagner, Suzanne Evans. 2012. Real-time evidence for Age Grad(ing) in Late Adolescence. Language Variation and Change 24(2):179-202.
Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English I. An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Day: 2020-11-20
Start time: 15:45
Duration: 00:30
Room: Ruqaiya Hasan
Track: Sociolinguistics
Language: en




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