Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1524 594577 Fax: +44 (0) 1524 843085

Contact Details

Tel: +44 (0)1524 594577


Professor Paul Kerswill

Paul Kerswill

Professor of Sociolinguistics

Degree: BA, MA (Cambridge), MPhil (Cambridge), PhD (Cambridge)

Associated research centres and groups: African Studies Group, Language Variation and Linguistic Theory (LVLT)

Current Teaching

I teach on the following modules:

Ling 130 English Language

Ling 153 Introduction to Language in Society

Ling 307 Language and Identities: Gender, Ethnicity and Class

Ling 435 Sociolinguistics (MA)

Ling 401 Research Methods in Linguistics and English Language (MA)

Ling 516 English Accents and Dialects (MA English Language by Distance Learning)

Research Interests

My research is in social dialectology - a sociolinguistically informed approach to language variation and change. I am interested in how variation and change is patterned within speech communities - big cities, small towns or whole geographical regions - in which factors such as class, gender, ethnicity, age, as well as identity and mobility, play a part in how language varieties are distributed across the community and through time.

All my research has been on dialect contact - the long-term linguistic consequences that ensue when speakers of different accents or dialects come together through migration and mobility. My first research looked at the ways in which Norwegian rural dialect speakers changed their vernacular speech after they had migrated to the city of Bergen .

One of the consequences of dialect contact is dialect levelling - the overall reduction in linguistic diversity across a dialect area. I worked on a speech community in which there has been "extreme" levelling - the New Town of Milton Keynes. I've also looked at dialect levelling from a geographical perspective, and considered the effects of social network differences in this process.

Currently I'm working on the second of two large ESRC-funded projects on phonetic and grammatical features among teenagers and older people in London, taking account of its massive ethnic diversity. See 'My Projects' panel on the right for details.

The following publications are central to my areas of research:

Kerswill, Paul (2003). Dialect levelling and geographical diffusion in British English. In D. Britain and J. Cheshire (eds.) Social dialectology. In honour of Peter Trudgill. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 223-243.

Kerswill, Paul & Williams, Ann (2000). Creating a new town koine: children and language change in Milton Keynes. Language in Society 29: 65-115.

Kerswill, Paul (1996). Children, adolescents and language change. Language Variation and Change 8: 177-202.

Kerswill, Paul (1993). Rural dialect speakers in an urban speech community: the role of dialect contact in defining a sociolinguistic concept. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 3: 33-56.

Kerswill, Paul (1987). Levels of linguistic variation in Durham. Journal of Linguistics 23: 25-49.

Publications, CV and presentations, plus the first UK Language Variation and Change conference:

Potential Doctoral Proposals

I am keen to supervise doctoral research in the following areas:

Eprints Publications Repository and Bibliographic Database

Paul Kerswill has 22 selected publication records listed on this webpage. Use links to access abstracts and full text where available. View all records to sort by date, type and title. For all ePrints records go to

Kerswill, Paul and Torgersen, Eivind and Fox, Sue (2008) Reversing “drift” : Innovation and diffusion in the London diphthong system. Language Variation and Change, 20 (3). pp. 451-491. ISSN 0954-3945

Kerswill, Paul (2007) Standard and non-standard English. In: Language in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 34-51. ISBN 9780521791502

Kerswill, Paul (2006) Migration and language. In: Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik. An international handbook of the science of language and society. De Gruyter, Berlin.

Kerswill, Paul and Shockey, Linda (2006) The description and acquisition of variable phonological patterns: phonology and sociolinguistics. In: Phonology in context. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Kerswill, Paul and Trudgill, Peter (2005) The birth of new dialects. In: Dialect change : convergence and divergence in European languages. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0521806879

Torgersen, Eivind and Kerswill, Paul (2004) Internal and external motivation in phonetic change: dialect levelling outcomes for an English vowel shift. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 8 (1). pp. 23-53. ISSN 1360-6441

Kerswill, Paul and Williams, Ann (2002) 'Salience' as an explanatory factor in language change: evidence from dialect levelling in urban England. In: Language change. The interplay of internal, external and extra-linguistic factors. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, pp. 81-110.

Other Interests and Hobbies

Classical music, Scandinavian folk music, violin, viola, walking, travel.

Associated Keywords: Dialect, English language, English phonetics, Language change, Language variation and change, Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Sociophonetics


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