Regional features associated with New York City English have been argued to be a component of the Jewish American ethnolinguistic repertoire (Benor 2011), even for Jewish speakers who live elsewhere in the country (Knack 1991, Sacknovitz 2007). In Chicago, meta-linguistic commentary from Jewish Chicagoans suggests that they associate New York regional features with Jewish speakers, and Chicago features with Irish Catholic Chicagoans. In a socially-primed phoneme categorization task, however, Jewish Chicagoans’ categorizations along TRAP-LOT and LOT-THOUGHT continua were not influenced by the top-down social information they were presented about the speaker’s regional (New York v. Chicago) or ethnoreligious (Jewish v. Catholic) background. Rather, categorization along the TRAP-LOT continuum was significantly predicted by listener background: specifically, Orthodox Jewish listeners expected a more Chicago-like phonemic boundary for these vowel classes, relative to non-Orthodox Jewish listeners. This suggests that the relationships between Jewish speakers and New York City English that are discussed in meta-linguistic commentary did not influence lower-level perception in this task, and that the relationship between New York City English and Jewish speakers may in fact be complicated by social factors beyond straightforward ethnoreligious identity.
"Regional Features and the Jewish Ethnolinguistic Repertoire in Chicago,"
University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics: Vol. 26:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://repository.upenn.edu/pwpl/vol26/iss2/2