Social Salience and the Sociolinguistic Monitor: a Case Study of ING and TH-fronting in Britain

Fox, Susan Patricia; Levon, Erez (2014). Social Salience and the Sociolinguistic Monitor: a Case Study of ING and TH-fronting in Britain. Journal of English Linguistics, 42(3), pp. 185-217. Sage Publications 10.1177/0075424214531487

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This article examines the role of social salience, or the relative ability of a linguistic variable to evoke social meaning, in structuring listeners’ perceptions of quantitative sociolinguistic distributions. Building on the foundational work of Labov et al. (2006, 2011) on the “sociolinguistic monitor” (a proposed cognitive mechanism responsible for sociolinguistic perception), we examine whether listeners’ evaluative judgments of speech change as a function of the type of variable presented. We consider two variables in British English, ING and TH-fronting, which we argue differ in their relative social salience. Replicating the design of Labov et al.’s studies, we test 149 British listeners’ reactions to different quantitative distributions of these variables. Our experiments elicit a very different pattern of perceptual responses than those reported previously. In particular, our results suggest that a variable’s social salience determines both whether and how it is perceptually evaluated. We argue that this finding is crucial for understanding how sociolinguistic information is cognitively processed.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Fox, Susan Patricia


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




Sage Publications




Annalea Decurtins

Date Deposited:

11 Mar 2015 15:33

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2015 15:33

Publisher DOI:



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