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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This paper examines data from three communities in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most ethnically diverse city. The purpose is to determine whether some of the surprising sociolinguistic patterns emerging in communities where there has been extensive immigration generalise to other, similar urban areas.

We examine the realisation of 'the' prevocalically (N=747): Standard English prescribes [ði], but [ðə] is generalised for many speakers and this generalization typifies many contact varieties of English. Our research confirms that this variant is a diagnostic of highly mixed communities; it occurs principally in the speech of L1 speakers of English exposed to large numbers of L2 English speakers in the two preceding generations. However, we do not find young men leading the change as they do in London. Our analysis suggests that closer scrutiny of the phonetics of unstressed vowels (usually of little interest in variationist sociolinguistics) is warranted, as the quality of these too and how they interact with other vowels in the system may be subject to intergenerational change.

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