The Great Migration and the Spread of a Supraregional Variant: Glottal Stop Replacement of Word Final /d/ in DC African American Language

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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Farrington, Charlie

The Great Migration was the migration of African Americans out of the rural South between 1915 and 1970. In the 1960s, during the early period of sociolinguistic research on AAL, many communities under investigation had experienced massive in-migration over the preceding thirty years. The core findings of this research were, in part, a function of the new urban populations in the midst of sustained migration and intra-ethnic dialect contact. The current paper focuses on the early period of research on AAL in sociolinguistics, using data from 68 speakers recorded in 1968 in Washington DC available in Corpus of Regional African American Language. In DC, many of the of the in-migrants were working class and Southern born, moving into a city with a well-established African American population. To begin to understand the potential linguistic consequences of the Great Migration, we look at the spread of glottal stop replacement of word-final /d/, a feature in modern AAL that is geographically and socially widespread. The results show that young working-class females led in this sound change and that it was a change initially led by individuals whose parents were born outside of DC, demonstrating the impact the Great Migration had on varieties of AAL in Great Migration destination cities.

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