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Showing papers in "Language Variation and Change in 1991"


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The results of the test of the apparent time construct suggest that it is unquestionably a valid and useful analytical tool that can be used for exploring language change in progress.
Abstract: The use of apparent time differences to study language change in progress has been a basic analytical construct in quantitative sociolinguistics for over 30 years. The basic assumption underlying the construct is that, unless there is evidence to the contrary, differences among generations of similar adults mirror actual diachronic developments in a language: the speech of each generation is assumed to reflect the language more or less as it existed at the time when that generation learned the language. In providing a mirror of real time change, apparent time forms the basis of a conceptual framework for exploring language change in progress. However, the basic assumptions that underlie apparent time have never been fully tested. This article tests those assumptions by comparing apparent time data from two recent random sample telephone surveys of Texas speech with real time data from the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States, which was conducted some 15 years before the telephone surveys. The real time differences between the linguistic atlas data and the data from the telephone surveys provide strong support for the apparent time construct. Whenever apparent time data in the telephone surveys clearly suggest change in progress, the atlas data show substantially fewer innovative forms. Whenever the apparent time data suggest stable variation, the atlas data are virtually identical to that from the more recent surveys. Whenever the relationships between real and apparent time data are unclear, sorting out mitigating factors, such as nativity and subregional residence, clarifies and confirms the relationships. The results of our test of the apparent time construct suggest that it is unquestionably a valid and useful analytical tool.

379 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, a quantitative explanation of the -t,d deletion is given in the form of a quantitative theoretical prediction, which is empirically verified in a study of seven English speakers.
Abstract: Variationist treatments of phonological processes typically provide precise quantitative accounts of the effects of conditioning environmental factors on the occurrence of the process, and these effects have been shown to be robust for several well-studied processes. But comparable precision in theoretical explanation is usually elusive, at the current state of the discipline. That is, the analyst is usually unable to say why the parameters should have the particular values that they do, although one can often explain relative ordering of environments. This article attempts to give a precise explanation —in the form of a quantitative theoretical prediction —of one robust quantitative observation about English phonology. The reduction of final consonant clusters (often called -t,d deletion) is well-known to be conditioned by the morphological structure of a target word. Deletion applies more in monomorphemic words (e.g., mist) than in inflected words (e.g., missed). In the theory of lexical phonology, these classes of words are differentiated by derivational history, acquiring their final clusters at different levels of the morphology. The theory further postulates that rules may apply at more than one level of the derivation. If -t,d deletion is treated as a variable rule with a fixed rate of application (p 0 ) in a phonology with this architecture, then higher rates of application in underived forms (where the final cluster is present underlyingly and throughout the derivation) are a consequence of multiple exposures to the deletion rule, whereas inflected forms (which only meet the structural description of the rule late in the derivation) have fewer exposures and lower cumulative deletion. This further allows a precise quantitative prediction concerning surface deletion rates in the different morphological categories. They should be related as an exponential function of p 0 , depending on the number of exposures to the rule. The prediction is empirically verified in a study of -t,d deletion in seven English speakers.

260 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors explored two unresolved methodological issues in the study of copula variation in African-American Vernacular English, assessing their quantitative and theoretical consequences via multiple variable rule analyses of data from East Palo Alto, California.
Abstract: We explore two unresolved methodological issues in the study of copula variation in African-American Vernacular English, assessing their quantitative and theoretical consequences via multiple variable rule analyses of data from East Palo Alto, California. The first is whether is- contraction and deletion should be considered separately from that of are. We conclude that it should not, because the quantitative conditioning is almost identical for the two forms, and a combined analysis offers analytical advantages. The second issue is whether the alternative methods that previous researchers have used to compute the incidence of "contraction" or "deletion" ("Labov Contraction and Deletion," "Straight Contraction and Deletion," "Romaine Contraction") fundamentally affect the results. We conclude that they do, especially for contraction. We also discuss implications of our analysis for two related issues: the ordering of contraction and deletion in the grammar, and the presence of age-grading or change in progress in East Palo Alto. In this article, we reopen the analysis of one of the oldest and most frequently examined variables in the paradigm of quantitative sociolinguistics: variation between full, contracted, and zero forms of inflected copula and auxiliary be (henceforth "the copula") in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), as in "Sue is the leader," "She's happy," "He 0 talkin." For convenience, we use the term copula from this point on in its broad sense, to

178 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper showed that sound change may bring two phonemes into such close approximation that semantic contrast between them is suspended for native speakers of the dialect, without necessarily leading to a merger.
Abstract: In 1972, Labov, Yaeger, and Steiner reported a series of “near-mergers” that have since proved to be difficult to assimilate to the standard conception of the phoneme and that challenged our current understanding of how language production is related to perception and learning (Labov, Yaeger, & Steiner, 1972). In these situations, speakers consistently reported that two classes of sounds were “the same,” yet consistently differentiated them in production. Labov (1975a) suggested that this phenomenon was the explanation for two “falsely reported mergers” in the history of English, where word classes were said to have merged and afterward separated. It appears that sound change may bring two phonemes into such close approximation that semantic contrast between them is suspended for native speakers of the dialect, without necessarily leading to merger. This article reports on further observations of near-mergers, which confirm their implications for both synchronic and diachronic issues, and presents the results of experiments that show how phonemic contrast is suspended for an entire community.

152 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors show that subject/verb agreement and subject/predicate adjective agreement in spoken Brazilian Portuguese are subject to a parallel processing effect, such that marking leads to further marking.
Abstract: Subject/verb agreement and subject/predicate adjective agreement in spoken Brazilian Portuguese are subject to a parallel processing effect, such that marking leads to further marking and lack of marking leads to further lack of marking. For example, semantically plural verb tokens preceded by marked plural subjects in the same clause or other marked verb tokens with the same subject in the preceding discourse are more likely to be explicitly marked for plural than similar tokens preceded by unmarked subjects or verbs. This phenomenon is in direct contradiction to the principle of linguistic economy, since marking tends to occur precisely in those contexts in which it is most highly redundant and could therefore be discarded with no loss of information. Furthermore, the marking of successive plural tokens cannot be considered statistically independent events, since the outcome of previous marking decisions effects future marking. We propose that the parallel processing principle is a universal of language use.

107 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors describe a new research project on African Nova Scotian English (ANSE), a variety spoken by descendants of African American slaves who immigrated to Nova Scotia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Abstract: In this article, we describe a new research project on African Nova Scotian English (ANSE), a variety spoken by descendants of African American slaves who immigrated to Nova Scotia in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Subsequent segregation from surrounding populations has created a situation favoring retention of the vernacular, in conjunction with Standard English. In addition to providing the first systematic linguistic documentation of ANSE, we detail the characteristics of the Canadian scenario that make it an ideal test of the creole-origins and divergence hypotheses: in particular, that, more clearly than other African American English varieties that evolved independently in the diaspora, the Canadian situation has featured no creole influence. This fact can effectively date the occurrence of any creole-like features in contemporary ANSE (and, by extension, other varieties of African American Vernacular English [AAVE]) to (at least) the late 18th century, an important time-depth characterization. We then present the results of a series of quantitative analyses of linguistically diagnostic features and compare them to those obtained for (1) another transplanted variety of African American English (Samana English) and (2) a prototype variety (the Ex-slave Recordings), and note the striking similarities among them. The results militate in favor of a genetic relationship among ANSE and its counterparts as a common precursor of contemporary varieties, thereby providing the first methodologically consistent cross-linguistic comparison of three distinct vestiges of “early” African American English, and contributing missing links in the history and development of AAVE.

106 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Gregory R. Guy1
TL;DR: This article explored the consequences of this model for other variable constraints on a rule, such as the preceding and following segment constraints on -t,d deletion, and showed quantitatively different patterns than external constraints, as the latter affect the rule only in its final, post-lexical operation.
Abstract: The variable lexical phonology proposed in Guy (1991) predicts an exponential relationship among rates of retention in word classes of different derivational histories. A class of words that satisfies the structural description of a variable rule at an early lexical level of derivation will undergo multiple operations of the rule and, therefore, exponentially reduced rates of retention, compared to a class of forms that only satisfies the structural description of the rule at the end of the derivation and thus is subject to its operation only once. For the case of English -t,d deletion, it is postulated that monomorphemic words (e.g., mist) are exposed to the deletion rule three times in a derivation, whereas semiweak past tense forms (e.g., left) are exposed twice, and regular past tense forms (e.g., missed) undergo the rule but once.The present article explores the consequences of this model for other variable constraints on a rule, such as the preceding and following segment constraints on -t,d deletion. Word-internal constraints, because they are present throughout the derivation, are shown to have quantitatively different patterns than external constraints, as the latter affect the rule only in its final, post-lexical operation. Four specific quantitative predictions are derived from the model to elucidate this distinction between internal and external constraints, and empirical data are presented to confirm the predictions.

105 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: For instance, this article showed that subject pronouns in Andalusian Spanish are not used to disambiguate verb forms, in direct contrast to Hochberg's (1986) findings on subject pronoun usage in Puerto Rican.
Abstract: Data on person marking in Andalusian Spanish argue in favor of a revision of the functional hypothesis, which pertains to “the tendency for semantically relevant information to be retained in surface structure” (Kiparsky, 1982:87). The first part of this study shows that subject pronouns in Andalusian are not used to disambiguate verb forms, in direct contrast to Hochberg's (1986) findings on subject pronoun usage in Puerto Rican. In the second part of the study, an analysis of contextual person markers, not undertaken in previous studies, shows that person can be indicated by means outside the surface structure. When both linguistic and contextual person markers are taken into account, only 2% of the 1,035 verbs in this sample of Andalusian are unmarked for person. Person marking is thus maintained where it is important to the speaker's message, but it is not limited to surface structure realization as the strong form of the functional hypothesis suggests.

74 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper investigated the influence of both external social factors and internal structural constraints, including phonetic environmental and morphosyntactic effects, in mesolectal Jamaican Creole (JC) deletion.
Abstract: -t,d deletion is a well-known variable phonological process subject to the influence of both external social factors and internal structural constraints, including phonetic environmental and morphosyntactic effects. Its profile of variation has been widely investigated in American English dialects. However, it interacts with another grammatical process – the regular affixation of final /-t, -d/ as a past-tense marker – that strongly distinguishes these dialects from English-related creoles, where past-marking by this mechanism is infrequent or non-occurrent. Investigation of -t,d deletion in mesolectal Jamaican Creole (JC) thus raises important questions about the intersection of variable processes, the generality of phonetic environmental constraints, and the degree of difference between English-related creoles and metropolitan standard and non-standard Englishes.

67 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors found that a Trinidadian child who was exposed to both Standard English (SE) and English-lexicon Creole (TC) was found to use the verb forms of each system differentially according to addressee, discourse mode, semantic intent, and grammatical factors.
Abstract: In a longitudinal acquisition study of the development of the verb phrase (VP), a Trinidadian child who was exposed to both Standard English (SE) and Trinidadian English-lexicon Creole (TC) was found to use the verb forms of each system differentially according to addressee, discourse mode, semantic intent, and grammatical factors. Systematic variation was first recorded at age 2;7 and continued to develop through to the end of the study at age 4;9. School exposure to demands for SE production resulted in a decline in the child's productive TC competence overall and his movement into mid-range usage of SE and TC. The systems in contact appeared linked for the child in that he produced alternant forms from each one variably in apparent relation to his perception of the appropriate extent and range of their use. The weightings for variable constraints in each area modified over time.

28 citations




Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors present an explanation du changement survenu dans the distribution du sujet pronominal and du suoint nul Pro en moyen francais, and recourons a la sousspecification du trait de nombre comme procedure d'identification du contenu de Pro.
Abstract: Dans le cadre de la theorie du gouvernement et du liage, cet article presente une explication du changement survenu dans la distribution du sujet pronominal et du sujet nul Pro en moyen francais. Apres avoir montre que cette langue de type V2 ne manifeste pas l'asymetrie principales/subordonnees caracteristique des langues germaniques, nous proposons d'identifier la position de Pro selon le principe de m-command. Pour remplacer le parametre d'uniformite morphologique de Jaeggli et Safir (1989), qui n'a pas rendu compte des proprietes de la flexion verbale dans la langue etudiee, nous recourons a la sousspecification du trait de nombre comme procedure d'identification du contenu de Pro. Dans un modele ou le contenu de Pro est identifie selon une hierarchie des traits de personne et de nombre, nous attribuons la perte de Pro-drop a la fin du moyen francais au fait que le trait nombre est devenu inerte dans la syntaxe.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The analysis of data from two corpora on Montreal French, collected in 1971 and 1984, shows that there is only one root semantic value exclusively associated with devoir, namely, the notion of desirability (as in the English ‘should’).
Abstract: Although there is no consensus on whether French has any true modal auxiliary, devoir ‘must’ is one of the very few possible candidates. Most studies of devoir concentrate on criteria for distinguishing its epistemic and root semantic values, but some also explore the subtle semantic nuances it conveys depending on context. Here, we identify discrete meanings through the analysis of semantic overlaps between devoir and other French modal expressions, such as probablement ‘probably’, etre suppose ‘to be supposed to’, or falloir ‘ought to’. The analysis of data from two corpora on Montreal French, collected in 1971 and 1984, shows that: 1. There is only one root semantic value exclusively associated with devoir , namely, the notion of desirability (as in the English ‘should’). 2. There are different patterns of use of the competing modal expressions within each semantic field analyzed, according to the social class of the speaker. Moreover, some patterns characterizing a specific social group are acquired relatively late.