Phonological change

Lesson rationale

All languages change over time and each generation contributes to phonological change by altering the pronunciation of an individual word or by modifying a sound applied to a set of phonologically related words. Some sound changes eventually affect spoken English nationwide, while others only occur locally or take years to spread geographically. Many younger speakers, for instance, now pronounce garage to rhyme with marriage where previous generations pronounced it to rhyme with barrage. In some parts of the UK younger speakers do not distinguish between words like poor and pour, while older speakers use a different vowel in each. The tasks here are designed to encourage students to explore phonological change captured in sound recordings on this site and to investigate phonological change in their community.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How does pronunciation change over time?
  • How does our pronunciation reflect our age?