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English in the United States and CanadaProf. R. HickeySS 2006 Language Change and varieties of North American English

Marcel Kalisch (Grundstudium TN)Nadja Höckesfeld (Grundstudium LN)Vanessa Buddeus (Grundstudium TN)Sandra Boschenhoff (Hauptstudium TN)Verena Bories (Hauptstudium TN)Anja Wienhold (Grundstudium LN)Sina Kunkel (Grundstudium LN)

  • The Patterning of Dialect
  • Applied Dialectology
  • Dialect Awareness in School and Community
the patterning of dialect
The Patterning of Dialect
  • Dialect:
    • popular belief vs. reality
    • Dialectally Diagnostic
  • The Social Distribution of Dialect Forms:
    • group-exclusive usage
    • group-preferential usage
  • Linguistic Variability:
    • inherent variability
  • The Controversial Interview:
    • observer’s paradox (Labov, William)
the patterning of dialect1
The Patterning of Dialect
  • Systematic Variation:
    • constraints on variability
    • independent linguistic constraints
    • example: consonant cluster reduction
  • Systematic relationships
    • implicational relation
applied dialectology
Applied Dialectology
  • Dialects and Testing
    • Problems with standardized tests
    • Language development tests
    • Error prediction
applied dialectology1
Applied Dialectology
  • Testing language
    • Testing situation
    • Language diagnostics
applied dialectology2
Applied Dialectology
  • Teaching Standard English
    • What is standard English?
    • Different approaches to standard English
    • Teaching conditions
dialect awareness in school and community
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • The effect of dialect on basic educational skills (reading and writing)
  • The role of dialect in language arts education
  • Dialect Awareness Programs
dialect awareness in school and community1
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • Dialects and Reading
    • Decoding = the process whereby written symbols are related to the sounds of language
    • Background knowledge

They are so big that roads are built through their trunks. By counting the rings inside the tree trunk, one can tell the age of the tree.

(from Meier 1973)

    • Dialect readers = texts which incorporate the non-standard grammatical forms typical of a vernacular-speaking community
dialect awareness in school and community2
Dialect Awareness in School and Community

African American Vernacular English version:

No matter what neighborhood you be in – Black, White or whatever – young dudes be having they wheels. Got to have them. Well, anyway there happen to be a young brother by name of Russell. He had his wheels. Soul neighborhood, you know. He had this old ’57 Ford. You know how brothers be with they wheels. They definitely be keeping them looking clean, clean, clean.

Standard English version:

Young guys, Black or White, love their cars. They must have a car, no matter how old it is. James Russell was a young man who loved his car like a baby loves milk. He had an old blue and white ’59 Chevrolet. He spent a great deal of time keeping his car clean. He was always washing and waxing it.

dialect awareness in school and community3
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • Dialect Influence in Written Language
    • The frequency of non-standard forms

forms frequently found:

1 verbal –s absence (e.g. She go__)

2 plural –s absence (e.g. four mile_)

3 possessive –s absence (e.g. John hat)

4 –ed absence resulting from consonant cluster

reduction (e.g. Yesterday they miss)

5 Copula is and are absence (e.g. We going to the


forms which appear infrequently:

- the orthographic reflection of f for th (e.g. baf for


- postvocalic r absence (e.g. ca for car)

dialect awareness in school and community4
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • Writing Dialect for Literary Purposes
    • The Representation of dialect in American literature arose in the 19th century
    • Dialect forms have been used in literary works in order to portray characters

- for a comic effect

- for purposes of character development

    • “eye dialect” = a set of spelling changes which have nothing to do with the phonological differences of real dialects, because it appeals solely to the eye of the reader


- was as wuz

- does as duz

- wunce for once

dialect awareness in school and community5
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • Writing Dialect for Literary Purposes (continuation)
    • Changes in spelling conventions

to portray real phonological variation between a standard dialect and a non-mainstream variety


- them as dem

- fellow as feller

- first as fust

    • Special created conventions

e.g. the apostrophe


- mo’ for more

- ‘cause for because

- ‘cept for except

dialect awareness in school and community6
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • Proactive Dialect Awareness Programs

“Although public discrimination on the grounds of race, religion and social class is not now publicly acceptable, it appears that discrimination on linguistic grounds is publicly acceptable, even though linguistic differences may themselves be associated with ethnic, religious and class differences.”

(from Milroy and Milroy 1985:3)

    • Reasons for endorsing dialect awareness programs:

- to learn how language works

- to develop the language skills

- to enhance the learning of the standard variety

dialect awareness in school and community7
Dialect Awareness in School and Community
  • A Curriculum on Dialects
    • Confronting students with stereotypes and misconceptions about dialects


- to listen to representative speech samples of regional, class

and ethnic varieties

- to examine cases of dialect variation in the own community

- to collect local lexical items

- dialect patterning exercises

dialect awareness in school and community8
Dialect Awareness in School and Community

An example of a dialect patterning exercise:

A southern vowel pronunciation

List A List B List C

tin and ten lit and let bit and bet

kin and Ken pick and peck pit and pet

Lin and Len pig and peg bin and Ben

windy and Wendy rip and rep Nick and neck

sinned and send litter and letter din and den

phonetic basics
Phonetic Basics

The Cardinal Vowel Chart:

types of vowels
Types of Vowels
  • monophthongs (simple vowels)
  • nasalised vowels
  • devoiced vowels
  • semi-vowels (or approximants)
  • diphthongs (or complex vowels)

Rising diphthongs:

/ei/ make

/ai/ lie

// boy

// lotion

/o/ note AE

/a/ now


Falling diphthongs:

// real

/e/ hair

// sure

/u/ actual

/i/ peculiar


What is a chain shift?

 a type of sound shift, in which a group of sounds changes (e.g. vowels)

 this happens unconsciously

Examples:The Great Vowel Shift (~15th century)

or the Northern Cities Vowel Shift

types of chain shift
Types of Chain Shift

Minimal Chain Shift:

 change in the position of two phonemes; one vowel moves away from its original position (“leaving element”), which is then occupied by another vowel (“entering element”)

Extended Chain Shift:

 any combination of minimal chain shifts; the entering element of one minimal chain shift replaces the leaving element of a second

principles of vowel shifting
Principles of Vowel Shifting

According to Labov there are three principles:

1) Long vowels rise

2) Short vowels fall / upgliding diphthongs fall

3) Back vowels move to the front

change in progress
Change in Progress

Northern Cities (Vowel) Shift

  • takes place mostly around the Great Lakes: Syracuse, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Madison, Green Bay
  • most complex chain shift ever recorded
  • the larger the city, the more advanced the change
  • a total of six vowel phonemes, one after another, have moved from their original locations that the new form of one vowel overlaps the old form of another
features of the northern cities shift
Features of the Northern Cities Shift

Changes nearing completion

1 raising of /æ/

Midrange changes

2 fronting of /a/

3 centralisation and fronting of /o/

New and vigorous changes

4 lowering of /i/ and /e/

5 backing of /e/

6 backing of //

features of the northern cities shift2
Features of the Northern Cities Shift

Drag chain: one vowel moves and pulls other vowels behind it

1) /æ/  /i:/

2) /o/  /æ/

3) /o:/  /o/

4) /i/  /e/: unclear if drag or push chain

Push chain: a vowel moves towards the position of another vowel, causing that vowel to move itself

5) /e/  /v/

6) /v/  /o:/

the telsur project
The Telsur Project
  • by William Labov, Sharon Ash and Charles Boberg
  • The Linguistics Laboratory, Department of Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania
  • engaged in a telephone survey of the sound changes affecting the English of North America
  • Phonological Atlas of North America: the present state of the phonological systems of urban dialects, the advance of sound changes in progress
  • I. What are the major dialect regions of the USA?
  • II. What are the defining features of those regions?
the telsur project1
The Telsur Project
  • four major dialect regions:
  • the North, the South and the West: relatively uniform development of the three major sound shifts
  • the Midland: residual domain with a much greater diversity
sampling strategy
Sampling Strategy
  • goal of the Telsur project: representing the largest possible
  • population
  • samples of places with the greatest concentration of population are
  • taken
  • → phonological change is usually most advanced in urban centres
  • - each community is selected as the focal point of an area
  • three defining terms: Zones of Influence, Central Cities, Urbanized
  • Areas
  • - 145 Central Cities have been chosen
  • 54% of the population of the United States live in that 145 Urbanized
  • Areas
zone of influence zi
Zone of Influence (ZI)
  • - consists of a number of counties
  • derived from the 1992 County Penetration Reports of the Audit
  • Bureau of Circulation (ABC)
  • ABC audits data from member organizations on the circulation of
  • newspapers and other publications
  • - ZI defined for Telsur: determined by Central City
central city
Central City
  • - for Telsur: a Central City is the central place of a ZI and it may actually
  • consist of more than one city
  • basic criterion: place for the which the Urbanized Area has a population
  • of at least 200,000 according to the 1990 census
  • due to low population in some areas: there are Central Cities with smaller
  • population
  • the status of a small city as a regional centre is demonstrated by the
  • existence of a local newspaper that has wide circulation in the area
urbanized area
Urbanized Area

- defined by the U.S. Census Bureau in order to provide a better separation of urban and rural population

- consists of a Central City or Cities and the surrounding densely settled territory

- population of at least 50,000

the north
The North

- five regions: the North Central region, the Inland North, Eastern New England, Western New England, New York City

- position of the long high and mid vowels: they generally retain the initial position

the north1
The North

The North Central region

- the dialect area that best preserves the features of the initial position

- back position of checked /ow/ is characteristic of 71% of all speakers

The Inland North

- most prominent feature: the Northern Cities Shift

the north2
The North

New York City

- city vernacular is intact

Eastern New England

- defining characteristics: the merger of /o/ and /oh/ in cot and caught, Don and dawn, and the vocalization of postvocalic /r/

Western New England

- no clear pattern of sound change emerges from there

- characteristic: back position of checked /ow/

the west1
The West

- shows a diffusion of Northern, Midland and Southern characteristics as a result of the northward movement of Southern speakers through the Dakotas and Montana, and the steady flow of people from various regions to the far western states

- conservative position of free /ow/ extends northward from the North Central states to Washington

- Southern influence appears in the pronunciation of ‘on’ with tense /oh/, and the use of inglides with the short vowels is widespread through the West

the west2
The West

- in the phonological system, a fair degree of homogeneity is emerging, with specific features that differentiate the West from other dialect areas

- most prominent feature: merger of long and short open /o/

- merger of /o/ and /oh/ solid in the West

- fronting of free /uw/

- has developed a characteristic but not unique phonology

- closest to the South Midland as a dialect

the south1
The South

The Southern Shift

1. The Monophtongization of /ay/:

/ay/ becomes /ah/

-> right: [rait] -> [ra:t]

-> mile: [mail] -> [ma:l]

  • the most important feature of the Southern Shift
  • defines the South
  • it is not found in any speaker north of the Southern Line
  • only a small amount of monophtongization is found in the South

Midland and in Pennsylvania, but always before liquids and


the south2
The South

2. /e/ and /ey/ change their positions

set -> say it

3. /i/ and /iy/ change their positions

kit -> key it

beat -> starts low and glides up all the way

the south3
The South

4. relative reversing of the position of the nuclei of the long and short vowels

5,6. the fronting of /uw/ and /ow/

-> appeared variably before 1875 and consistently from then onward

- is regarded as the earliest stage of the Southern Shift

7,8. chain shift before /r/ in the back vowels (not explained)

the south5
The South
  • Another characteristic feature, but independent from the Southern Shift
  • distinction between /o/ and /oh/

-> cot vs. caught

the midland1
The Midland
  • divided into South Midland and North Midland
  • defined by ist lack of participation in the Northern Cities Shift and the Southern Shift

South Midland:

  • the fronting of checked /ow/

-> does not appear in the North Central region or in the Inland North, hardly appears in the North Midland

the midland2
The Midland
  • each of the Midland cities (e.g. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cinncinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City) has its own local character


  • regional patterns of the fronting of /uw/, /ow/ and /aw/, the raising of /ahr/ and /ohr/ and the centralization of /ay/ before voiceless consonants
  • only within the city we find for example the near-merger of /e/ and /^/ before intervocalic /r/ -> ferry, furry
the midland3
The Midland

St. Louis:

  • located in the Midland region
  • has long been recognized as a center of Northern linguistic influence, on most Atlas maps, the speakers show „northern“ features

-> merger of /ahr/ and /ohr/ in card and cord

(usually at the level of the mid vowel)

  • Wolfram, Walt / Natalie Schilling-Estes 1998. American English. Dialects and variation. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Labov, William. Principles of Linguistic Change. Volume One: Internal Factors. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford 1994.
  • Chambers, Jack K. Sociolinguistic Theory. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford 1995.
  • Radford, Andrew et alii. Linguistics. An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003.
  • Yule, George. The Study of Language. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003.
  • Hickey, Raymond. Great Vowel Shift.In: History of Linguistics. URL: (online: May 25, 2006)