The social mechanisms that influence the direction of language change operate along the demarcations of networks of communication. Within geographic regions, the focused organizations that individuals participate in structure the lines of communication, and the sociodemographic composition (social ecology) therein limits the options of peers to associate with. Schools have their own social ecology, and attendance at schools can explain language change at a level above social interaction but below the level of community. This study uses acoustic vowel measurements from 132 Europan American speakers in three geographically contiguous cities located in northwestern Wisconsin. Modeling results indicate (1) similar sociogeographic contexts lead to linguistic similarity; (2) dissimilarity in social ecology leads to greater linguistic dissimilarity as the difference between a dyads’ years of birth increases; and (3) net of local sociogeographic context and social ecology, similarity in sex and age leads to linguistic similarity and vice versa. These patterns indicate that local social ecologies further demarcate the lines of communication, thereby structuring the form of language at a level between the micro interactional and the macro level of the speech community.

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