Language in Society


Sex, covert prestige and linguistic change in the urban British English of Norwich

Peter Trudgilla1

a1 Department of Linguistic Science, University of Reading


Women use linguistic forms associated with the prestige standard more frequently than men. One reason for this is that working-class speech has favourable connotations for male speakers. Favourable attitudes to non-standard speech are not normally expressed, however, and emerge only in inaccurate self-evaluation test responses. Patterns of sex differentiation deviating from the norm indicate that a linguistic change is taking place: standard forms are introduced by middle-class women, non-standard forms by working-class men. (Sociolinguistic variation; linguistic change; women's and men's speech; contextual styles; social class; British English.)