University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Investigating local linguistic norms to discover larger patterns of language behaviour has been standard practice in sociolinguistic study. Looking closely at socially salient variables reveals patterns that problematize accepted trajectories of variation as traditional and newly emerging sociolinguistic identities interact. This paper integrates findings from multiple complementary projects to describe the forces influencing the stopping of interdental fricatives (dis ting for this thing), a highly salient marker of Newfoundland English, in and around St. John’s, the province’s major city. In urbanizing communities multivariate analysis reveals variation patterns typical of dialect erosion: older men maintain traditional norms while younger women move toward the standard, especially in linguistically salient contexts. In the same communities, a timing-based approach finds that young women seem to be agentively inserting stopped forms, suggesting that they have adopted a system with fricatives as the default choice. When we contrast urban and rural communities and affiliations, we find a more complex pattern: style shifting is greatest among urban males and rural females. We posit that these seemingly divergent patterns result from efforts by speakers to position themselves within the local social landscape during a period of rapid social change.