The role of mundane mobility and contact in dialect death and dialect birth

Britain, David (2013). The role of mundane mobility and contact in dialect death and dialect birth. In: Hundt, Marianne; Schreier, Daniel (eds.) English as a contact language (pp. 165-181). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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Urry begins his 2007 book, Mobilities, by throwing some quite stunning statistics at his readers: in 2010, there were one billion legal international arrivals at ports and airports; in 1800 people in the US travelled on average 50 metres per day, today it is 50 kilometres per day; 8.7% of world employment is in tourism; and, at any one time, there are 360,000 passengers in flight above the United States (2007: 3-4). But very many of these mobilities for the individuals concerned are or have become rather unexceptional – a flight to a holiday in Majorca or Florida, a journey on a crowded commuter train into Madrid or Tokyo, a cross-Channel ferry to Calais in France to pick up some cheap wine and a camembert. Whilst much of the theoretically influential dialectological literature on mobility reports on long-distance, often permanent, often dangerous migrations, I turn our attention here to the dialectological consequences of this unexceptional everyday movement. I will argue here that, just as more dramatic and long-distance mobilities can trigger linguistic change, so too can the much more mundane movements we engage in in everyday life. I demonstrate that the linguistic consequences of that contact are similar if not the same – perhaps less dramatic, perhaps involving the convergence of an initially less divergent array of variants – but typologically of the same ilk. And I demonstrate that because these mobilities have been long-term, intensive and ongoing, their consequences on the dialect landscape have been highly significant. Important to remember, however, is that these mobilities are socially stratified and unevenly distributed. As Wolff put it: “the suggestion of free and equal mobility is … a deception, since we don’t all have the same access to the road” (1993: 253).

Item Type:

Book Section (Book Chapter)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures

UniBE Contributor:

Britain, David


800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 820 English & Old English literatures
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages




Cambridge University Press




David Britain

Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2014 17:07

Last Modified:

06 Mar 2014 17:07


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