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Showing papers in "Language Variation and Change in 2000"


Journal ArticleDOI
Charles Yang1
TL;DR: This work model's language change as the change in grammar distribution over time, which can be related to the statistical properties of historical linguistic data, is applied to explain the loss of the verb-second phenomenon in Old French and Old English based on corpus studies of historical texts.
Abstract: If every productive form of linguistic expression can be described by some idealized human grammar, an individuals’s variable linguistic behavior (Weinreich, Labov, & Herzog, 1968) can be modeled as a statistical distribution of multiple idealized grammars. The distribution of grammars is determined by the interaction between the biological constraints on human grammar and the properties of linguistic data in the environment during the course of language acquisition. Such interaction can be formalized precisely and quantitatively in a mathematical model of language learning. Consequently, we model language change as the change in grammar distribution over time, which can be related to the statistical properties of historical linguistic data. As an empirical test, we apply the proposed model to explain the loss of the verb-second phenomenon in Old French and Old English based on corpus studies of historical texts.

122 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Charles Boberg1
TL;DR: This paper used data from both sides of the U.S. and Canada border to investigate the influence of phonetic features on the way in which language changes diffuse over space, using a hierarchical gravity model.
Abstract: The way in which language changes diffuse over space—geolinguistic diffusion—is a central problem of both historical linguistics and dialectology. Trudgill (1974) proposed that distance, population, and linguistic similarity are crucial factors in determining diffusion patterns. His hierarchical gravity model has made correct predictions about diffusion from London to East Anglia, but has never been tested across a national boundary. The aim of this article is to do so using data from both sides of the U.S.–Canada border. Two cases are examined: the non-diffusion of phonetic features from Detroit to Windsor and the gradual infiltration into Canadian English of American foreign (a) pronunciations. In both cases, the model makes incorrect predictions. In the first case, it is suggested that the model needs a term representing a border effect, and that the diffusion of phonetic features is constrained by structural, phonological factors; in the second, a traditional wave theory of diffusion appears to fit the data more closely than a hierarchical model.

101 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors provided acoustic evidence that in the last 50 years New Zealand English (NZE) has undergone a substantial vowel shift and argued that /i/ changed in quality not only because of crowding in the front vowel space but also because it would be less likely misperceived as an unaccented vowel (i.e., as [inverted e]).
Abstract: This study provides acoustic evidence that in the last 50 years New Zealand English (NZE) has undergone a substantial vowel shift. Two sets of data are studied: the Otago corpus, recorded in 1995, and the Mobile Unit corpus, recorded in 1948. Both corpora have male and female speakers. The corpora were labeled, accented vowels were extracted, and formant values were calculated. The results of the formant analysis from the two corpora are contrasted. We provide evidence that in NZE /i/ has centralized, /e/ and /ae/ have raised, and the diphthongs /i[inverted e]/ and /e[inverted e]/ have merged. We argue that /i/ changed in quality not only because of crowding in the front vowel space, but also because it would be less likely misperceived as an unaccented vowel (i.e., as [inverted e]).

81 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Dominic Watt1
TL;DR: The distribution of face and goat vowels in Tyneside English is assessed with reference to the age, sex, and social class of 32 adult TE speakers in this paper, and the effects of phonological context and speaking style are also examined.
Abstract: The distribution of variants of the face and goat vowels in Tyneside English (TE) is assessed with reference to the age, sex, and social class of 32 adult TE speakers The effects of phonological context and speaking style are also examined Patterns in the data are suggestive of dialect leveling, whereby localized speech variants become recessive and pronunciations typical of a wider geographical area are adopted Within this broad pattern, however, there is evidence of parallelism between the vowels in terms of the relative proportions of their variants across speaker groups It is suggested that pressure to maintain the symmetrical structure of the underlying phonological system is guiding this process Labov's (1991, 1994) principles of chain shift are discussed in this connection However, it is argued that the patterns in the data are more plausibly explained by considering the social significance of each variant instead of making reference to variants as socially neutral expressions of abstract phonological categories

52 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors present the results of a cross-sectional study of two groups of children, aged 6 to 7 years and 10 to 12 years, relating to the deletion of post-consonantal word-final 0R0 in French (production and judgments of acceptability).
Abstract: To begin, we review three theoretical problem areas in the field of research into phonological variation in children. Next, we present the results of a cross-sectional study of two groups of children, aged 6 to 7 years and 10 to 12 years, relating to the deletion of post-consonantal word-final 0R0 in French (production and judgments of acceptability). In an experimental study, we then examine the mechanism involved in the learning of words with a variable0R0. Finally, the interpretation of the results within the framework of a cognitive conception of variation leads us to four conclusions: (i) children have a tendency to copy adult surface forms rather than to encode a variable rule; (ii) orthography causes the late encoding of certain variable 0R0s; (iii) the establishment of linguistic factors precedes that of social factors; and (iv) age-related changes are not guided by the sociolinguistic value that groups consciously attribute to the variables. Phonological variation has been the object of many studies in the field of sociolinguistic research. Despite undeniable advances based on the observation of adults and adolescents, developmental approaches to variation remain rare. This state of affairs is particularly marked in France, where variationist sociolinguistics is almost nonexistent (Gadet, 1996). Within this context, our contribution takes two directions. First, the observation of studies devoted to phonological variation in English-speaking children enables us to define three developmental issues that structure this field. 1 Second, the report of a survey and an experiment into the deletion of post-consonantal word-final 0R0 in French children aged 6 to 12 years supplies data that can help us shed light on some of these issues. THREE D EVELOPMENT A L I SSUES

48 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This article studied the variable patterning of /ay/ in the variety of English spoken by the Lumbee Indians in tri-ethnic Robeson County, North Carolina, and found that they have been surprisingly innovative and heterogeneous, indicating that the need to preserve cultural uniqueness may outweigh linguistic pressure to level out differences.
Abstract: This article demonstrates the importance of investigating language variation and change both within and across ethnic groups, especially those that have been relatively insular historically. The focus is on the variable patterning of /ay/ in the variety of English spoken by the Lumbee Indians in tri-ethnic Robeson County, North Carolina. (The Lumbee refer to themselves as “Indians” rather than “Native Americans”; I use their term when referring to their tribe.) The analysis reveals that the Lumbee have been surprisingly innovative and heterogeneous. Explanations are both linguistic and extralinguistic. Insular groups do not face linguistic pressure to level intra- and inter-community differences or to curb internal innovations. In addition, insular groups are often more concerned with intra- than inter-group relations and hence with intra-group social and linguistic distinctions. The study also shows a lessening of inter- and intra-group dialect differences with increased inter-group contact. However, the Lumbee still preserve a degree of dialectal distinctiveness, indicating that the need to preserve cultural uniqueness may outweigh linguistic pressure to level out differences.

42 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, a corpus of conversational Bislama (a Melanesian creole spoken in Vanuatu, related to Tok Pisin and Solomon Islands Pijin) is analyzed.
Abstract: A corpus of conversational Bislama (a Melanesian creole spoken in Vanuatu, related to Tok Pisin and Solomon Islands Pijin) suggests that during the 20th century the creole has developed a set of regular inflectional morphemes on the verb that agree in person and number with the subject of the finite clause. It is shown that, where the agreement paradigm is referentially richest, the language is also beginning to grammaticize a tendency towards phonetically null subjects (pro-drop). Three possible analyses of the Bislama verb phrase are evaluated; consistent support for only one is found in the spoken Bislama corpus. The resulting paradigm of subject–verb agreement (i, oli, and O) is analyzed in terms of the historical development of Bislama. It is argued that the synchronic agreement marking reflects properties derived from (i) the lexifier (English), (ii) the substrate languages, and (iii) universal grammar. No one component fully accounts for the patterns of agreement marking observed. Instead, a synthesis of all three is required, as previously observed by, for example, G. Sankoff (1984) and Mufwene (1996). Substrate languages provide a model for subject agreement prefixing on the verb; the person features associated with the lexifier ‘he’ continue to be reflected in the distribution of Bislama i; and phonetically null subjects are emerging as the norm where the agreement paradigm best serves to identify the subject referent. This is consonant with generative accounts of null subject systems. Parallels with other languages (e.g., Italian, Franco-Provencal, Hebrew, Finnish) are examined.

34 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, a historical demographic profile from the town's census data, dating back to its inception in the 1890s, enables a comparative analysis of the input dialects and variable linguistic forms that were in competition, following the tradition of research by Omdal (1977), Dorian (1981), Trudgill (1986), and Kerswill (1994b), among others.
Abstract: Investigations into dialect emergence are most often based on data from manuscripts and on comparative and internal reconstructions. Seldom does the opportunity arise to monitor the selection of competing norms during the emergence stage because the data to postulate the linguistic marketplace (and hence to know what forms were likely to have been in competition) are unavailable. The case of dialect emergence in Thyboron, Denmark, over the past century offers just this rare opportunity. A historical demographic profile from the town's census data, dating back to its inception in the 1890s, enables a comparative analysis of the input dialects and variable linguistic forms that were in competition. It is possible to trace the linguistic and social variables at play during the emergence stage of this new dialect, following the tradition of research by Omdal (1977), Dorian (1981), Trudgill (1986), and Kerswill (1994b), among others. The findings contribute to an explanatory model of dialect emergence and transformation.

21 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This article found that vowel changes occurring in southern Ohio were generally interpreted by the respondents in terms of their own vowel systems, and that limited exposure to the local dialect by outsiders led to recognition only of the more salient or stereotyped sounds.
Abstract: Previous studies have shown that speakers have difficulty interpreting the sounds of another dialect when they are heard in isolation or reduced context, and that this difficulty is greater in areas of dialect contact where exposure to mergers or near-mergers is experienced (Labov & Ash, 1997; Labov, Karen, & Miller, 1991) A cross-dialectal comprehension test was conducted at Ohio University and three of its branch campuses Responses were elicited to seven words digitally excerpted at three levels of reduced context from a story read by a third-generation resident of southern Ohio Results indicated that vowel changes occurring in southern Ohio were generally interpreted by the respondents in terms of their own vowel systems, and that limited exposure to the local dialect by outsiders led to recognition only of the more salient or stereotyped sounds Moreover, students from southern Ohio had difficulty with the same words that outsiders did, presumably reflecting semantic confusion caused by their increased exposure to other dialects A new boundary for the South Midland dialect area is proposed on the basis of these findings

20 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the status of ambiguous lone Spanish origin nouns in Catalan discourse is determined by analyzing their distribution and conditioning and by comparing them to their counterparts in unmixed Spanish or in multiple-word code-switches.
Abstract: Using the variationist comparative method, the status of ambiguous lone Spanishorigin nouns in Catalan discourse is determined by analyzing their distribution and conditioning and by comparing them to their counterparts in unmixed Spanish or in multiple-word code-switches. Some areas of the nominal grammar have been selected for contrastive purposes (determination, complementation, gender, number) because they represent sites of coincidence as well as conflict between the two languages in contact, Spanish and Catalan. The main conclusion of this research is that Spanish-origin nouns in an otherwise Catalan context present grammatical variability similar to that of Catalan nouns, and that they behave differently from Spanish nouns in a monolingual context. In short, the grammar of these nouns is Catalan, and their categorial status is that of loanwords and not that of code-switches.

15 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors examined palatalization gestures in the production of /t/ and /d/ in standard Belgium French through the use of electropalatography and compared the articulatory results with an acoustic study of the affricated realization of these consonants when followed by /i/, /y/, /j/, and /[inverted h]/ in Quebec French.
Abstract: This article studies palatalization gestures in the production of /t/ and /d/ in standard Belgium French through the use of electropalatography. The articulatory results are compared with an acoustic study of the affricated realization of these consonants when followed by /i/, /y/, /j/, and /[inverted h]/ in Quebec French (Bento, 1993). The study examines regional and individual differences in palatalization gestures to show how affrication can be ascribed to palatalization. Results are analyzed with regard to temporal, articulatory (electropalatography), and voicing aspects to compare production strategies across French variants, speakers, and phonetic contexts. The aim is to understand coordination processes, which are explained in terms of biomechanical constraints resulting from the coordination of adjacent gestures. These processes are used to show how palatalization traces in a variant with no recognized affrication (Belgium French) are similar in nature to the affrication in Quebec French, because palatalization is due to the coarticulation of the stop with a following high front vowel or a palatal approximant. Results are also compared with diachronic data to propose explanations for some patterns in the development from Latin to French.

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors examines the reduction of syntactic options in South Texas Spanish narrative discourse during the nineteenth century and argues that the loss was actualized through a series of reductive changes that were played out in the internal and external syntax of the construction.
Abstract: This article examines the reduction of syntactic options in South Texas Spanish narrative discourse during the nineteenth century. I argue that nineteenth-century Texas Spanish made ample use of the absolute construction as an orientation strategy in narrative discourse. In the beginning of the century the absolute construction appeared quite frequently in the narratives analyzed, but by the turn of the century the construction had become virtually unknown. I argue that the loss was actualized through a series of reductive changes that were played out in the internal and external syntax of the construction. These reductive changes, I suggest, not only cut across stylistic boundaries, but also corresponded with social changes under way with the incorporation of the region into the United States. The notion of “historical generation,” as it has emerged in social theory, is invoked as a significant social variable in relation to the linguistic variation and change observed.