Lexical change

Lesson rationale

We can observe lexical change by comparing a younger and older speaker’s contrasting use of the same word or by comparing the vocabulary and expressions used by speakers of different generations discussing the same topic. Many young speakers, for instance, use the word sick to mean ‘great, excellent’, while older speakers use it exclusively to mean ‘unwell’. We would also probably be able to guess the relative ages of two speakers if one was talking about going to the pictures to watch a film, while the referred went to the cinema to watch a movie. The tasks here are designed to encourage students to explore lexical change captured in sound recordings on this site and to investigate lexical change in their community.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How do words change meaning across time?
  • How does our age affect the words we use?