Selected Papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 45)

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  • Publication
    (2017-11-01) Sneller, Betsy; Sneller, Betsy
    Abstract The University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (PWPL) is an occasional series published by the Penn Graduate Linguistics Society. The series has included volumes of previously unpublished work, or work in progress, by linguists with an ongoing affiliation with the Department, as well as volumes of papers from NWAV and the Penn Linguistics Conference. This volume contains selected papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation 45 (NWAV 45), held November 3-6, 2016 at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria. Since Vol. 14.2, PWPL has been an internet-only publication. As of September 2014, the entire back catalog has been digitized and made available on ScholarlyCommons@Penn. Please continue citing PWPL papers or issues as you would a print journal article, though you may also provide the URL of the manuscript. An example is below: Arnson, Shelby and Charlie Farrington. 2016. Twentieth Century Sound Change in Washington DC African American English. U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 23.2: Selected Papers from NWAV45, ed. B. Sneller, 1-10. Publication in the University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (PWPL) does not preclude submission of papers elsewhere; copyright is retained by the author(s) of individual papers. The PWPL editors can be contacted at: U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics Department of Linguistics University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104–6228 Betsy Sneller, Issue Editor Recommended Citation Sneller, Betsy. 2017. “Preface.” University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics Vol. 23, Iss. 2, Art. 1. Available at:
  • Publication
    Cross-Cultural Approaches: Comparing Heritage Languages in Toronto
    (2017-11-01) Nagy, Naomi
    Comparable documentation across language varieties can contribute to linguistic knowledge, e.g., what types of structures and patterns are cross-linguistically possible? common? Such analyses also provide a proving ground on which to test which theoretical principles of sociolinguistics are universal. To begin to tackle the complex issue of how we might develop a framework for cross-cultural sociolinguistics, I share some insights from comparative analysis of several languages that are spoken in one city but that have not been subjected to much sociolinguistic analysis. The languages in question (Cantonese, Faetar, Korean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and Hungarian) are heritage languages spoken in Toronto for 50-100+ years and subjected to variationist scrutiny since 2009. Comparative analyses of homeland and heritage patterns across several heritage languages are compared to better understand the processes of language variation and change in this set of lesser-studied varieties. I highlight trends observed in seven years of ongoing study of Toronto’s heritage languages that may help us understand contact-induced change in this context at the community, generation, and individual level. Comparisons reveal surprising discrepancies between reports of linguistic attitudes and language use and evidence of ongoing change. The most surprising trend is the lack of correlation between usage patterns and attitudes to linguistic innovation. Such issues must be understood if we are to develop a framework for cross-cultural comparisons.
  • Publication
    A French Spoken Norm under the Radio-Canada Spotlight: Verbal Negation and Quebec Cultural Elites
    (2017-11-01) Villeneuve, Anne-José; Villeneuve, Anne-José
    Several studies have analyzed sociolinguistic variation in Quebec French (QF) vernaculars, but few have examined more careful QF speech. This paper examines verbal negation and the variable use of the negative clitic ne in the speech of 32 members of Quebec’s cultural elites during recent (2003–2011) televised sit-down interviews. As a subset of our sample is interviewed in two different settings, one which deals with emotional personal narratives (Un Train corpus) and another in which speakers talk about a more objective topic (Le Point corpus, see Bigot 2008), the comparison between corpora further assesses the status of the negative particle as a stylistic marker. For instance, our analysis of both corpora reveals rates of ne use far superior to those observed in QF vernaculars, as well as a significant effect of address pronoun (formal 2s vous or informal tu) and age. We also show that operative linguistic constraints in our careful QF data are similar to those described in the literature on colloquial French (e.g. effect of collocations and subject type), and remain stable across speaker groups and interview settings. These results indicate that although speakers are aiming towards an elusive ‘standard Quebec French’ (SQF), they are constrained by a cohesive mental grammar even in careful speech. In short, this study fills a gap in the literature by using comparative sociolinguistics methods to provide a more nuanced description of verbal negation in ‘standard Quebec French’ (SQF), one which measures the relative effect of social, stylistic and linguistic factors.
  • Publication
    Twentieth Century Sound Change in Washington DC African American English
    (2017-11-01) Arnson, Shelby; Farrington, Charlie
    This paper presents a new perspective on African American English (AAE) in Washington DC (DC) by looking at sound change internal to the DC African American community over time. DC has had a stable African American population since the early twentieth century, and since 1960 African Americans have been the ethnic majority. We analyze changes in the vocalic system and how they relate to larger population demographics in DC. This study looks at several vowel categories for 29 speakers from the Corpus of Regional African American Language (CORAAL), using interviews recorded in 1968 and 2015/2016 (Kendall and Farrington 2017). With speakers born between 1907 and 1998, we provide insight into the older regional patterns of DC AAE as well as participation in the widespread African American Vowel System (Thomas 2007). Results demonstrate patterns of stability and change resulting from competing norms of these two systems, including the loss of older regional features, regular monotonic sound change, and curvilinear patterns of change. This complex pattern of development suggests that the AAE speaking community in DC is undergoing changes that aren’t simply movements towards an external norm like a monolithic AAVS, but rather represent the ongoing development of a regionally-based ethnolect.
  • Publication
    Contact, Co-Variation, and Sociolinguistic Salience: What Mister Rogers Knows about Language Change
    (2017-11-01) Erker, Daniel
    This study asks whether and how the features that define a language variety co-vary within the communities and speakers said to be representative of it. Of particular interest is the relationship between multiple variables in a setting known to promote contact-induced language change. The central idea that emerges here is that less salient linguistic variables are more likely to co-vary, that is, to be uniformly influenced by the contact setting, than are variables of higher salience. This claim is supported by an analysis of five variables in the speech of four Spanish-speaking adults, two of whom have lived their entire lives in the contact setting and two who are recent arrivals to it. The variables are (1) filled pauses, (2) the presence vs. absence of subject pronouns, (3) subject pronoun position (i.e., pre- vs. post-verbal), (4) general subject position (the pre- or post-verbal position of non-pronominal subjects, e.g. lexical NPs, clauses, etc.), and (5) coda /s/ weakening, examined in terms of rates of deletion as well two acoustic parameters. It is only with respect to the last of these features, which is highly salient sociolinguistically, that strong regionally delineated continuity in the Spanish of the U.S. born speakers is clearly observed. The four lower salience features have shifted in parallel, increasing in similarity to the use of analogous features in English. These results indicate that in a setting characterized by language contact, the fate of socio-linguistic variables is mediated by salience. Low salience features are more susceptible to the influence of the contact setting and are more likely to be uniformly reshaped by it. High salience features, in contrast, are differentiated by speakers’ greater awareness of their social signaling potential and are more likely to unfold along autonomous and individuated trajectories.
  • Publication
    Phonetic Variation and Self-Recorded Data
    (2017-11-01) Hall-Lew, Lauren; Boyd, Zac
    Self-recordings, when speakers record themselves without a researcher present, are attractive for potentially eliciting a wider range of styles than is obtained through interviews. To compare the stylistic differences between self-recorded speech and interview speech, we present an analysis of sibilant production among four speakers in both contexts. Our results show that the contrast between self-recordings and interviews can be a reliable predictor, with differences often surpassing those between interview speech and read speech. We suggest that self-recordings may be stylistically different enough from interviews to justify overcoming the practical challenges of their collection, integrating the self-recording into standard sociolinguistic methodologies, at least for studies of intraspeaker variation and the description of variable phenomena.
  • Publication
    Attitudes towards Black American Sign Language
    (2017-11-01) Bayley, Robert; Hill, Joseph C; McCaskill, Carolyn; Lucas, Ceil
    This paper explores how language attitudes and ideologies impact perceptions of language varieties in the American Deaf community, with a particular focus on Black ASL, the variety of ASL developed by African Americans in the South during the era of segregation. Results of multivariate analysis show that on a number of dimensions, Black ASL, particularly as used by signers who attended school before integration, is closer to the standard variety taught in ASL classes and used in ASL dictionaries. Nevertheless, despite evidence that their variety is closer to the standard taught in ASL classes, many of the older signers interviewed felt that white signing was superior. Attitudes among the younger signers were more mixed. While a few younger signers said that white signing was better than Black signing, others said that Black signing was more powerful in expression and movement and it had rhythm and style while white signing was more monotonic and lacked emotion. This paper explores the complex mix of attitudes expressed by study participants in the six Southern states in relation to the historical development of this distinctive variety of ASL.
  • Publication
    Stable Variation vs. Language Change and the Factors that Constrain Them
    (2017-11-01) Gardiner, Shayna; Nagy, Naomi
    To better diagnose language change vs. stable variation, we must clarify their differences – a critical endeavor especially for variables that may change very slowly over long time periods, where an Apparent Time approach may not reveal clues to change in progress. Wallenberg and Fruehwald (2013) propose the Continuity Hypothesis: that stable variables should be constrained by at least one continuous factor; we provide a stringent test of this hypothesis, analyzing 38 dependent variables from articles published in Language Variation and Change. Of the 23 ‘changing’ variables analyzed, none was reported to be constrained by continuous factors; of the 8 ‘stable’ variables analyzed, only one was found not to be associated with factors that could be treated as continuous. This significant distinction (Fisher’s Exact Test, p
  • Publication
    Blackfoot Final Vowels: What Variation and its Absence can Tell us about Communicative Goals
    (2017-11-01) Bliss, Heather; Gick, Bryan
    This paper investigates variation in the production of word-final vowels in Blackfoot, an Algonquian language spoken by approximately 3350 people in Southern Alberta and Northern Montana. The Blackfoot community perceives the language as partitioning into varieties, based on the age of the speaker; ‘old Blackfoot’ is richly polysynthetic and spoken by people born in the 1930s and earlier, whereas ‘new Blackfoot’ is thought to be missing certain inflections, and is spoken by people born in the 1940s or later. Final vowels, which encode a morphosyntactic distinction referred to as obviation, are thought to be particularly susceptible to language loss. Gick et al. (2012) document the phonetic properties of one Blackfoot speaker’s final vowels, demonstrating that, for her, final vowels are not absent but instead soundless in some environments, in that there are distinct articulator positions for -a and -i vowels without any corresponding acoustic distinction. We investigate the articulatory, acoustic, and phonological properties of the final vowels of four additional speakers cross-cutting age, dialect, and gender. Using ultrasound, video, and audio recordings, we found that while there is phonetic variation across speakers in the realization of final vowels, not one speaker altogether omits them. In short, there is variation, but of a limited nature. The robustness of the final vowels reflects the fact that they serve an important communicative function in the grammar by encoding obviation.