Selected Papers from NWAV 38

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 20
  • Publication
    Lexical Diffusion in the Early Stages of the Merry-Marry Merger
    (2010-01-01) Baxter, Laura
    This paper presents a new perspective on the origin and development of the Mary-merry-marry merger, the conditioned merger, or neutralization, of mid and low front vowels before /r/ in dialects of North American English. The city of Montreal, Quebec represents one of very few regions in which this merger has not taken hold, despite the fact that a near-complete merger is found in the nearby rural region of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. This paper attempts to shed light on this puzzling geographic distribution using data from archival interviews conducted with Eastern Townshippers born between 1895 and 1915. An acoustic analysis of the vowels before /r/ is presented and compared with data from recent studies of Montreal English. Acoustic analysis of the mean values of the first and second vowel formants shows a great deal of variation in these speakers’ productions of the historically low front vowel before /r/. In some tokens it is clearly merged with the mid vowel, while in others the two phonemes remain clearly distinct. Further, this variation is found both between speakers and in the speech of individuals themselves. Although not entirely homogenous, the speech community does appear to share general norms with regard to which words are or are not merged. These results demonstrate that the merger was not a lexically abrupt sound change. Rather, the results are consistent with a theory of sound change via lexical diffusion, which implies a much longer timeline for this change than previously assumed, suggesting its origins may go back many more generations. As such, it is suggested that the current geolinguistic pattern of the merger may be traced to the different settlement histories of Montreal and the Eastern Townships.
  • Publication
    Mapping Production and Perception in Regional Vowel Shifts
    (2010-01-01) Kendall, Tyler; Fridland, Valerie
    Drawing from data from a multi-region US vowel production and perception study, we investigate the extent to which vowel production and perception are related for talkers from Memphis, Tennessee. Focusing on the mid-front vowels and the variable degree of Southern Vowel Shift (SVS) exhibited productively by thirteen individuals, the study investigates the role of individual variation in perception. We show both that individuals who participate more strongly in the SVS have more shifted perceptual systems and that perceptual shift can operate somewhat independently from productive shift. We further consider our data in terms of the proposal by Sumner and Samuel (2009) that dialects should be understood as having three components, production, perception, and representation, and not simply in terms of production.
  • Publication
    ‘Bad’ Grammar and the Language Faculty
    (2010-01-01) Chambers, J.K.
    Usage variables usually involve superficial aspects of linguistic structure, but those that are stable and persistent reach deeper into the language faculty. Two grammatical niceties of standard English that are frequently botched even by people who are nominally standard-bearers are Subject-Verb Agreement with dummy subjects (as in There's twelve months in a year for There are twelve months...) and Accusative Case Concord with Conjoined Pronouns (as in Between John and I, we won three games for Between John and me...). Unlike normal variation, the nonstandard variants are not seen as stylistic choices but as mistakes. These usage variables persist not because of failings of the education system but because of the futility of its expectations. The prescribed grammatical forms invoke scope mechanisms that tax human processing capabilities in specific structural configurations. Grammars prescribe forms that the language faculty cannot reliably produce in the multiple tasks involved in ordinary conversation. The discovery of cognitive limitations that override grammatical processing qualifies the strong version of Chomsky's concept of the Language Faculty as an autonomous 'mental organ', and the concept of grammatical processing as hierarchical rather than linear. The persistence of these unstable constructions as grammatical prescriptions reinforces key concepts in variation theory, especially Kroch's concept of standard grammars as ideologically-motivated social constructs.
  • Publication
    “It’s Not That Big (Of) a Deal”: The Sociolinguistic Conditioning of Inverted Degree Phrases in Washington, DC
    (2010-01-01) Nylund, Anastasia; Seals, Corinne
    This paper examines the significance of participant assigned acceptability ratings for the post-adjectival degree construction ADJ (of/0) NP. The majority of studies in sociolinguistic variation have investigated phonological variables, such as alveolarization of (ing) and reduction or deletion of (t/d). Studies on syntactic variation often examine multiple realizations of a variable or the distribution of several variables. However, we base our study on Rickford et al.’s (1995) finding that syntactic variables can also be successfully isolated. In the present study, we describe a current change in progress involving a previously unstudied syntactic variable: post-adjectival (of) in degree constructions such as “It’s not that big (of) a deal.” We analyzed 3,600 tokens collected from 150 participants in the Washington, DC, area, and found significance in participant age, participant ethnicity, and the linguistic conditioning of the phrase, all affecting the acceptability rating given to the construction. Most notably, we found that acceptability of (of) is negatively correlated with age. The younger participants showed a strong preference for constructions with (of), whereas older informants overall preferred (0) constructions. Our findings suggest that this feature is part of an ongoing change in progress in Washington, DC.
  • Publication
    On the Role of Social Factors in the Loss of Phonemic Distinctions
    (2010-01-01) Baranowski, Maciej
    The paper tests the generalization of the curvilinear hypothesis and the tendency of females to lead linguistic change in vocalic mergers on the basis of two mergers currently in progress in Charleston, SC: the low-back merger and the pin-pen merger. It is based on minimal-pair tests and on the acoustic analysis of the speech of 90 speakers, aged 8-90, representing the entire socio-economic spectrum of the city. While the low-back merger is a change from below showing a female advantage and a curvilinear effect of social class, the pin-pen merger shows a decreasing monotonic relationship with social class and no female lead. The difference is argued to be due to the two mergers being at different levels of conscious awareness in the community.
  • Publication
    Perceptual vs. Grammatical Constraints and Social Factors in Subject-Verb Agreement in Brazilian Portuguese
    (2010-01-01) Pereira Scherre, Maria Marta; Naro, Anthony Julius
    The earliest studies of variable subject/verb concord in Brazilian Portuguese showed that some sorts of verbs tend to show more frequent use of concord than others. Specifically, according to the saliency hypothesis (Naro 1981), when there is little difference in phonetic realization of plural with respect to singular, use of non-agreeing forms is much more frequent. Thus, in eles come/comem feijão ‘they eat beans’, where the singular differs from the plural only in nasalization of the final vowel, lack of agreement is much more frequent than in eles fez/fizeram as pazes ‘they made up’, where the two forms are very different. The distribution of saliency is highly overlaid with tense/mood: most high saliency forms are preterit, whereas most low saliency forms are present or imperfect. But there are exceptions, such as high saliency present é/são ‘is/are’ and dá/dão ‘gives/give’. In an attempt to discover whether saliency or tense is the most important variable, we made a very detailed coding of both saliency and tense/mood of over 7,000 tokens in two random samples of the speech community separated by an interval of about twenty years (Silva and Scherre 1996, Paiva and Duarte 2003). Both saliency and tense/mood are highly significant in separate analyses, but saliency overcomes tense/mood when both are posited in the same analysis, showing that a cognitive/perceptual factor is stronger than a grammatical factor. Furthermore, our social results in real time suggest that, in a counter-flow to earlier tendencies of loss, resurgence in use of concord is underway, with women in the lead, independently of social orientation as measured by contact with media, a possibility foreseen in Naro 1981, almost thirty years ago. Thus, language-external factors take on importance in the analysis and interpretation of flows and counter-flows in the dynamics of verbal concord in Brazilian Portuguese.
  • Publication
    The Effect of Dialect Features on the Perception of “Correctness” in English-Word Voting Patterns on
    (2010-01-01) Grieser, Jessica is a user-driven online dictionary of word and short phrase pronunciations, where in-dividuals may record pronunciations and rate those of others on their “correctness.” Launched in January 2008, it archives over 585,000 pronunciations in 241 languages as of May 2010. This paper examines the ratings of pronunciations from speakers in the United States, England, and Australia to determine the factors most responsible for high- and low-scoring English pronuncia-tions. Niedzielski (1999) found that perceived speaker locale affected naïve listener perception of phonetic variables. This paper examines two variables which, in combination with listeners’ per-ception of speaker locale, affect the “correctness” rating of English pronunciations on Forvo: the perception of hypercorrection as evidenced by the realization of intervocalic /t/, and the link be-tween perceived speaker locale and topic of the word being pronounced. Released intervocalic /t/ is a well-documented feature of British and Australian English (Wardhaugh 1999, Wolfram and Fasold 1974, Bayard et al. 2001). Within the sample of 187 pronunciations used for this data, only released-/t/ pronunciations by British and Australian speakers received average scores in the high range (greater than 4.0 on a 5-point scale), suggesting that Forvo voters consider released /t/ a hypercorrect feature when from a US English speaker. Voters also show a strong preference for dialect features to match the topic of the word or phrase being pronounced. Listeners prefer hear-ing US locations or personalities pronounced by a US speaker and vice versa, as evidenced by the lack of any high-scoring pronunciations of words by speakers whose dialect locale did not match the topic of the pronounced word. Both of these patterns suggest that naïve listeners attend extensively to dialect when making judgments about the overall correctness of features in even single-word pronunciations.
  • Publication
    Representations of Blackness by White Women: Linguistic Practice in the Community versus the Media
    (2010-01-01) Fix, Sonya
    Use of African American English features among whites with significant social contact with African Americans may signal familiarity and alignment with African American loved ones and peers. But larger cultural ideologies surrounding the use of an ethnically-marked language variety by a phenotypic outsider may cause a performance to be judged inauthentic, especially by those outside of speakers’ immediate intimate social networks. This paper examines the linguistic practices of urban white women from Columbus, Ohio with life-long affiliations and alignments with African Americans, and compares them to popular media depictions of “white women who act black.” Metalinguistic commentary from fieldwork suggests that the practices of these real-life speakers are assumed to match the social and linguistic practices of current popular television figures such as Buckwild from the Flavor of Love, and Rita, a character on the 2003 NBC sitcom Whoopi, both of whom create an iconic white female embodiment of blackness through use of selective syntactic, phonological, lexical, and discursive features of African American English. These media performances have generally been labeled as inauthentic. Qualitative and quantitative comparisons between AAE features used by these media personalities and speech data gathered from the white women with African American ties in my subject sample indicate hyperperformance on the part of the media personas that surpasses the “real” community members.
  • Publication
    An Eleméntàry Linguistic Definition of Upstate New York
    (2010-01-01) Dinkin, Aaron J.; Evanini, Keelan
    This paper examines a hitherto undiscussed dialectological feature of Upstate New York: the pronunciation of words like elementary (documentary, complimentary, etc.) as eleméntàry, with secondary stress on the penultimate syllable. We report the results of three studies examining the geographic distribution of this feature. In the first study, data from 119 sociolinguistic interviews in communities in eastern New York establish the widespread usage of the feature in this region. In the second study, data from 59 sociolinguistic interviews in far western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania show that the geographic extent of the feature hews very close to the New York–Pennsylvania state line in that region. The third study is a rapid and anonymous telephone survey of the lexical item elementary including 188 towns across the entire state of New York and nearby parts of adjacent states. This study finds that the stressed-penultimate pattern is nearly confined to Upstate New York, bleeding only into the Northern Tier of counties in Pennsylvania and a few towns in southwestern Vermont. In addition to providing empirical evidence for the geographic extent of this dialectolgical feature, this study analyzes the relationship between the distribution of the -méntàry pronunciation and other isoglosses that serve as boundaries between major dialect regions in the area. The analysis shows that the geographic extent of the -méntàry pronunciation does not always pattern closely with dialect regions defined by phonological criteria; rather, it coincides more closely with the cultural boundary delimiting the region of Upstate New York. We argue that this type of linguistic boundary is caused primarily by communication patterns (as opposed to constraints internal to the linguistic system), and that it is more likely to be observed in variants involving analogical change, such as the -méntàry pronunciation.
  • Publication
    (2010-01-01) Lerner, Marielle
    The University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics (PWPL) is an occasional series published by the Penn Linguistics Club. 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 Colloquium. This volume contains selected papers from NWAV 38, held from October 22–25, 2009 in Ottawa, ON, Canada at the University of Ottawa. Alphabetic thanks go to Aaron Ecay, Kyle Gorman, Laurel MacKenzie, Brittany McLaughlin, Lydia Rieck, and Meredith Tamminga for help in editing. Since Vol. 14.2, PWPL has been an internet-only publication. Since Vol. 13.2, PWPL has been published both in print and online gratis via ScholarlyCommons@Penn. Due to the large number of hits these online papers have received, and the time and expense of managing a back catalog of PWPL volumes, the editorial committee decided to cease print publication in favor of wider-scale free online dissemination. 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: Grimm, D. Rick. 2010. A Real-time Study of Future Temporal Reference in Spoken Ontarian French. U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 16.2: Selected Papers from NWAV 38, ed. M. Lerner, 83-92. Ultimately, the entire back catalog will be digitized and available on ScholarlyCommons@Penn. 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 
619 Williams Hall, 
University of Pennsylvania 
Philadelphia, PA 19104–6305 Marielle Lerner 
Issue Editor