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Relative pronoun which versus the which

The last change taken up for closer examination is variation between the relativizers which and the which. All three periods in Figure 7.7 represent statistically significant variation.

This change differs from the others, as it only describes developments in the late mid-range or later. The picture we get is inconsistent. While in 1440-1479 the upper ranks clearly lead the process, favouring which, by the next period the social aspirers and lower ranks have surpassed the upper. The only consistency observed is the approximately 30-per-cent proportion of which in the language of the middle ranks during the first two periods.

Table 7.3. Social stratification of changes along the S-curve. Four social strata. Statistically significant variation (chi-square test, p<0.05)7

Incipient below 15%

New and vigorous 15%-35%

Mid-range

36%-65%

Nearing

completion

66%-85%

Completed over 85%

Subject you vs. ye

x

-

x

-

x

my/thy vs. mine/thine

-

x

x

x

-

Object of gerund, zero vs. of

x

o

x

o

-

Third-person -s vs. -th

x

x

x

o

x

Single vs. multiple negation

x

x

x

-

x

which vs. the which

-

-

x

x

x

Note to Table 7.3. x = stratification, o = no stratification, - = no data.

This change once more confirms the fact that social differences do occur in mid-range and nearly completed phases. However, since our material from the early part of the corpus is socially not as representative as from the later sections, the results have to be interpreted with caution. As we have seen in Chapter 6 and as we will see in the next chapter, gender and region appear to play a more important role in this change than social status does.

It may also be of interest to point out that this change makes a record in terms of the differences in use between the social strata. In 1440-1479 the upper ranks chose which in 90 per cent of the cases, whereas the corresponding percentage in the lower ranks is only 17.

Returning to the question of the connection between social stratification and phase of change, our six changes show that stratification may emerge at any stage of diffusion. Table 7.3. summarizes the stratification patterns that have come to light in this section.

On the basis of Labov's Philadelphia study (2001), one would expect clearer stratification in the new and vigorous phase, but this does not seem to be the case.8 The curvilinear pattern in the early development will be discussed in the next section.

Finally, a look at the linguistic nature of the changes does not seem to reveal much regularity. The typical morphological changes, such as third- person inflection and second-person pronouns, do stratify socially, but so does a more syntactic change as well, the loss of multiple negation. It is worth noticing that the overall frequency of a variable, which might be expected to play an important part, is not decisive after all, since the incidence of the six variables varies a great deal (see Appendix II).

 
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