University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Sharese King


This paper investigates the linguistic construction of ethnic and regional identities through the use of a local feature, BAT retraction and lowering (D’Onofrio 2015, Kennedy and Grama 2012, Podesva, D’Onofrio, Van Hofwegen and Kim 2015). Analysis of the speech of twelve African Americans from Bakersfield, California, shows an apparent change over time, such that younger African Americans produce backer tokens. Additionally, a targeted analysis of a single speaker suggests that African Americans’ degree of retraction can index local-based stances and affiliations. Because of BAT retraction’s indexing of coastal urban identity (Kennedy and Grama 2012) and the valley girl character-type (D’Onofrio 2015), the recruitment of this linguistic resource among African Americans opens up a larger discussion on who owns the local sound change.