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“We act like girls and we don't act like men”: Ethnicity and local language change in a Philadelphia high school

  • Suzanne Evans Wagner (a1)

Abstract

How is ethnicity indexed linguistically in a speech community in which immigrant L2s have typically not been spoken for three or more generations? Drawing on recordings and ethnographic observations of eighteen white high school girls in south Philadelphia, speakers of Irish descent are shown to differentiate themselves from speakers of Italian descent through their use of (ay0), that is, Canadian Raising. (ay0) is an ongoing sound change in Philadelphia and is remarkable for being a rare example of a male-led change. Irish girls exploit more male-like, backed, and raised variants as a resource for indexing their ethnic identity, which is associated locally with stereotypically masculine characteristics such as toughness. The symbolic reflection of ethnic affiliation through this subtle linguistic device makes use of both local and supralocal social meanings. (Ethnicity, adolescence, Philadelphia, Irish, Canadian Raising, gender, sound change, language, and identity)*

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References

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