Selected Papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 46)

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  • Publication
    Dialect Identification Across a Nation-State Border: Perception of Dialectal Variants in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC
    (2018-10-15) Thomas Swan, Julia; Babel, Molly
    The Atlas of North America English distinguishes "the West" from "Western Canada" on the basis of /æ/ retraction and Canadian Raising (Labov, Ash, and Boberg 2006). Since the Atlas, scholars have provided a more detailed understanding of /æɡ/ raising, /æ/retraction, and Canadian Raising throughout the Western United States and Western Canada (Boberg 2008, Fridland et al. 2016, Presnyakova, Umbal, and Pappas 2017, Roeder, Onosson, and D'Arcy 2018). In a production study, Swan (2016) found that Seattle and Vancouver, BC are differentiated primarily by Canadian Raising and pre-nasal raising of /æ/ and show minimal difference with respect to /æɡ/ raising and /æ/ retraction. Seattle and Vancouver speakers also shared different ideologies about their speech: Seattle respondents felt more confident that they could identify a Vancouver talker based on speech than vice versa. The current study builds from these observations to ask how natives of Seattle and Vancouver perceive the similarities and distinctions documented in the production literature. Can listeners differentiate a talker as being from Seattle or Vancouver? What cues are listeners relying on to judge a talker as being from Seattle or Vancouver? Do these perceptual cues align with the production differences between the cities? What does this imply for a dialectology of the West? These questions are addressed using a forced-choice dialect identification task using the variables represented by FAN, PATH, TAG, and DEVOUT. Our analysis considers signal detection theoretic measures to elucidate sensitivity and bias (Macmillan and Creelman 2005). The results suggest that differentiating Seattle and Vancouver talkers is a challenging task for listeners native to these cities. Neither Seattle nor Vancouver listeners show very accurate performance for any of the single-word stimuli or short phrase blocks of the task and are generally not able classify a talker's city of origin based on their speech. The most accurate performance emerges for Seattle listeners classifying talkers saying DEVOUT, which aligns with the production differences between the cities and is likely driven by stereotypes about Canadian English. Listeners from both cities show more own city bias for the phonetic features that are shown to be more similar across the cities (PATH and TAG) than for those shown to be more different in production (FAN and DEVOUT). A closer look at bias reveals that while Seattle listeners perform with slightly more accuracy, they also show more own-city bias. We discussion possible reasons for this pattern and implications for dialectology of the West and Western Canada.
  • Publication
    Almost everyone in New York is raising PRICEs
    (2018-10-15) Newman, Michael; Haddican, Bill; Tan, Zi Zi Gina
    Using the data from the new CUNY Corpus of New York City English, we explore a phonological analysis by Kaye (2012) that argues that the New York City English (NYCE) PALM shares an underlying 'stem vowel' with PRIZE. Kaye's proposal is based on two observations: (i) the phonetic similarities of PALM and the nucleus of PRIZE and (ii) the conditioning factors that have led to the historical relexicalization of many Middle English short-o words from LOT to PALM are the same as those that have led relexicalization PRICE words to PRIZE. However, it has previously been observed that PALM is merging with LOT in NYCE. Consequently, it would be likely that if that vowel shares an underlying identity with PRIZE, PRIZE too should be merging. In fact, our data show a complex pattern. First, although PRIZE is backer than PRICE, there is considerable overlap. Also, the PRIZE nucleus tends to coincide with LOT more than PALM. Second, more younger speakers, who have a merged PALM-LOT, do not show a merged PRIZE-PRICE, but a new form of distinction, in which PRICE and PRIZE are now in a Canadian Raising pattern. In this way, NYCE loses a locally distinctive vowel configuration to match a widespread northeastern US regional pattern with a two-vowel low back system and Canadian Raising involving PRICE and PRIZE. In sum, the data show the complexity of the relationship between vowels in subsystems and that reconfigurations may involve multiple elements.
  • Publication
    The Myth of the New York City Borough Accent: Evidence from Perception
    (2018-10-15) Becker, Kara; Newlin-Lukowicz, Luiza
    A common language ideology in the United States is that New York City English (NYCE) displays reliable geographic variation across the city’s five boroughs, what we call the Borough Accent Ideology (BAI). In direct contrast, linguists argue that borough accents do not exist, but instead serve as a proxy for socioeconomic differences in NYCE (Hubbell 1950, Bronstein 1962, Labov 1966, Labov, Ash, and Boberg 2006:234). This paper contributes the first empirical evidence related to the BAI, with an analysis of perceptual data from an interactive website where listeners heard short audio samples of native New Yorkers and assigned them to one of the city’s five boroughs. The results confirm that listeners cannot accurately discern a talker’s borough of provenance, but also that listeners are not guessing when they vote. Based on the descriptive patterns, we hypothesized that listeners create a binary opposition between Manhattan, which is the borough that is least-aligned with traditional NYCE, and the outer boroughs, where listeners expect to hear higher rates of NYCE features. A regression analysis confirms this hypothesis, and finds specifically that a talker’s use of variable non-rhoticity and BOUGHT-raising are significant predictors of votes, with more rhoticity and less-raised BOUGHT predictive of votes for Manhattan. In addition, there is no significant difference between native and non-native New Yorkers in voting behavior, suggesting that this binary strategy is accessible to speakers from both within and outside New York City. Overall, the results confirm that the BAI remains an ideology and not a linguistic reality, at least for the task in question.
  • Publication
    Nós and A Gente ‘we’ in Brazilian Portuguese: Effect of Age in Urban and Rural Areas of Espírito Santo
    (2018-10-15) Coutinho Yacovenco, Lilian; Pereira Scherre, Maria Marta; Naro, Anthony Julius; Kronemberg de Mendonça, Alexandre; Candeias Foeger, Camila; de Almeida Benfica, Samine
    In Brazilian Portuguese there are three common ways to express first person plural: Traditional standard 'nós' with concord ('nós falamos' 'we speak''); Nonstandard 'nós' without concord ('nós fala' 'we speak'); Emerging standard 'a gente' with concord ('a gente fala' 'we speak'). In this paper, variation involving these forms is analyzed as two binary variables, concord with 'nós' and alternation between 'nós' and 'a gente.' This variation is vigorous and ongoing: concord is a stereotype; alternation is a marker. We analyze 1517 tokens from 40 speakers in Vitória, the capital of the State of Espírito Santo, and 1757 tokens from 32 speakers in the rural area of Santa Leopoldina, a small town of the same State. In terms over overall ternary distribution, the samples differ in only 4.6 percentage points with respect to nós with concord; 20.4 percentage points with respect to 'nós' without concord; and 15.7 percentage points with respect to 'a gente' with concord. The relative weights of age group in separate binary analyses show different directions in the cases of 'nós' with concord vs. 'nós' without concord, and 'a gente' with concord vs. 'nós' with or without concord in the two communities. In Vitória, the youngest age group favors 'nós' with concord and 'a gente' with concord, suggesting change in the urban community toward increased frequency of concord in line with other urban centers in Brazil. In Santa Leopoldina, we find decreasing use of 'nós' with concord in three age groups with an uptick in concord by the 7-14 year group. Furthermore, in Santa Leopoldina, the intermediate group of 26-49 favors of 'a gente' with concord, suggesting age grading. This use is more frequently by speakers who have greater contact with Vitória, such as in agricultural trade. It is reinforced by the effect of the interviewer in Santa Leopoldina: a gente with concord is favored if the interviewer is an outsider. Thus, rural and urban communities are on the same plane as far as overall distribution of 'nós' with concord is concerned, but exhibit different trajectories of ongoing progress, with distinct reflexes in the community: urban progress is community-wide change, while rural progress show age grading for a gente with concord, and change in progress is slower for 'nós' with concord. In both cases, direction is toward the dominant urban norm of agreeing forms. Nonetheless, even though 'a gente' with concord, an urban feature preferred in cities, penetrates the rural community, speakers still exhibit more 'nós' without concord, a local loyalty feature.
  • Publication
    Attentional Load and Style Control
    (2018-10-15) Sharma, Devyani; McCarthy, Kathleen
    Labov's (1966) attention-to-speech model suggested both social and cognitive elements in style-shifting: social awareness of prestige norms and cognitive defaulting to an easier style when attention is diverted. A focus on social motivations in later work has left the cognitive dimension under-explored. As the contexts elicited in sociolinguistic interviews vary in both attention and register, new methods are needed to tease these apart. In this study, we investigate the cognitive prediction: Does an increase in attentional load cause individuals to struggle to maintain a later-learned style? The novel experimental design eliminates contextual differences by requiring a formal news report style throughout. Twelve speakers of vernacular British English completed two speech production tasks (reading and recall), each with varying attentional load conditions. Higher load conditions included a cross-modal distractor task requiring simultaneous arithmetical calculations. Both of the variables examined—glottal replacement of /t/ and th-fronting—exhibited a consistent but mild trend towards an increase in vernacular forms under higher load. Speakers seem slightly less able to maintain a formal style when their attention is diverted, as suggested in Labov's original description of the vernacular as a default. However, the low level of the effect also suggests that sharp formality shifts cannot be purely due to a reduction in monitoring, but must also involve social awareness of the stylistic norms of a given register. Processing and cognitive ease should therefore be factored in alongside social motivations in the study of style variation.
  • Publication
    Social Predictors of Case Syncretism in New York Hasidic Yiddish
    (2018-10-15) Nove, Chaya R.
    This is a pilot study investigating synchronic variation in New York Hasidic Yiddish (HY) object pronouns. HY is a variety that has been transmitted directly by immigrants from Eastern Europe following the second world war and is presently the everyday language of thousands of Hasidic Jews in New York and other communities around the world. In Yiddish, pronominal forms in the dative case, 'mir' (1SG) 'dir' (2SG), have historically been used in four types of syntactic constructions: 1) when the pronoun referent is the recipient of an action in a double object construction; 2) with a transitive verb that inherently selects for an object in the dative form; 3) with a dative experiencer; and 4) as the object of a preposition. Anecdotal observations suggest an innovative leveled paradigm with accusative forms 'mikh' (1SG) and 'dikh' (2SG) in all four historically dative positions. Moreover, while other Yiddish dialects have dative case marking on definite articles and attributive adjectives, spoken HY has largely lost these. With 'mir' and 'dir' as the sole remaining dative forms in in the pronominal paradigm, learners of HY have less evidence for positing dative case than do learners of other dialects. The data for this study come from an online controlled judgement experiment with 113 native HY speakers from New York. Regression analysis reveals an age effect, with younger speakers tending toward innovative dative forms, and an interaction between age and gender, with younger females innovating more extensively than males. However, sex is confounded with language dominance in this community, largely because of an educational model that supports HY-English bilingualism among girls but gives primacy to HY in the education of boys. The model also selects speakers from Hasidic neighborhoods in Rockland County as the most likely innovators. Overall, the results of this study suggest an emergent reduction in the HY case system where, for some young speakers, the distinction between the accusative and dative case forms has been lost. HY offers linguists a unique opportunity to observe the development of a post-coterritorial Yiddish dialect in a new language contact environment. This investigation into HY in its unique sociocultural context contributes to Yiddish linguistics by highlighting changes that have occurred since its arrival to the US and to general theories of language change by identifying the social factors that may be playing a role in these developments.
  • Publication
    Boston Dialect Features in the Black/African American Community
    (2018-10-15) Browne, Charlene; Stanford, James
    Although dialectologists have studied Eastern New England (ENE) for generations, the dialect features of the Black/African American community are still understudied (Nagy and Irwin 2010:250). In this study, we conducted field interviews with 28 African American/Caribbean American (AA/CA) residents of Greater Boston. We compared our results with prior ENE fieldwork in nearby South Boston, a predominantly White community traditionally known for its strong "Boston accent." Results suggest that some ENE regional features are shared by both communities (MARY/MARRY/MERRY distinction, NORTH/FORCE distinction, nasal split short-a). However, other features show significant differences: the AA/CA speakers had non-fronted START/PALM, unmerged lot/thought (for older speakers), and rapidly receding r-lessness. This suggests that traditional notions about what constitutes a "Boston accent" need to be reconsidered in a more inclusive and nuanced way, following the dynamic social and ethnic patterns of the Boston area.
  • Publication
    The Effect of Heritage on Canadian Shift in Vancouver
    (2018-10-15) Presnyakova, Irina; Umbal, Pocholo; Pappas, Panayiotis A.
    Modern urban communities are inherently heterogeneous (Nagy and Meyerhoff 2008), yet sociolinguistic studies often focus on the white majority (Trudgill 1974, 1986, Labov 2001), or treat different ethnic groups as distinct communities and identify divergent patterns (Horvath 1991, Santa Ana and Parodi 1998). Relatively few studies so far have looked at the participation of speakers with ethnic backgrounds in on-going sound changes that characterize the founding community (Boberg 2004, Roeder 2009, Hoffman and Walker 2010, Wong and Hall-Lew 2014, Riebold 2015). The current study investigates the status of the Canadian Shift (Clarke, Elms, and Youssef 1995, Pappas and Jeffrey 2013) among the four largest heritage groups in Vancouver. Forty-seven speakers stratified according to heritage group (British/mixed European, Chinese, Filipino, and South Asian) and gender took part in sociolinguistic interviews and word list reading designed to elicit the major allophonic patterns of vowels in Canadian English (Boberg 2008). Formant analyses of 1,813 tokens from the word list were conducted in Praat using the methods by Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006). Results based on linear mixed effects regression models reveal that all four groups participate in the Canadian Shift as defined in Boberg (2008). We also find significant differences in specific dimensions of the change for each vowel, which perhaps are used by the different groups in the construction of ethnic identity.
  • Publication
    Why the Long FACE?: Ethnic Stratification and Variation in the London Diphthong System
    (2018-10-15) Gates, Shivonne M.
    This study attempts to challenge the monolithic representation of race and ethnicity in multicultural contexts in the UK. Whilst there are various descriptions of ethnic varieties of British English (e.g., Kirkham 2012, Rampton 2006, Sebba 1993, Sharma 2011), our understanding of race and ethnicity in the UK and its role in language variation and change is still rather limited. Recent work on Multicultural London English (MLE) found some evidence of ethnic stratification; for example, "non-Anglo" boys were often more likely to use innovative linguistic features (Cheshire et al. 2011). Despite this, MLE is described as an "ethnically-neutral variable repertoire" (Cheshire et al. 2013). In order to shed light on the dynamics of race and ethnicity in multicultural contexts, the present study uses qualitative and quantitative methods to examine a different diverse inner London adolescent community. Data were gathered at Riverton Secondary School, a multi-ethnic school in a diverse borough of East London, from 27 Year Ten students (aged 14-15). Sociophonetic analyses of FACE and PRICE reveal stark gender differences in vowel production, as well as some ethnic stratification. For example, White British girls have much longer FACE trajectories, as well as a lower, more centralised onset. However, the picture is complicated by the fact that adolescents’ constructions of ethnic identity are inextricably linked to friendship networks, orientation to school, and notions of localness and Britishness. Results complement previous findings in London, but also shine an important light on the relevance of ethnicity in multicultural British contexts.
  • Publication
    Change Over Time in the Grammar of African American English
    (2018-10-15) Fisher, Sabriya
    This paper investigates the use of 'ain't' in past tense contexts in African American English (AAE) using a corpus of recorded speech collected in Philadelphia in the early 1980s. A study of 42 speakers' rates of use of 'ain't' in past tense contexts finds increase toward 'ain't' in both real and apparent time. This increase is stronger among speakers born and raised in Philadelphia compared to those who migrated there from the South, supporting previous work linking innovation in AAE to linguistic segregation in the urban North during the Great Migration. Finally, this paper uses data from the morphological form of verbs following 'ain't' in past and perfect contexts to argue that the use of 'ain't' for 'didn't' resulted from the reanalysis of present perfect constructions containing 'ain't'.