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Flying high above the social radar: Coronal stop deletion in modern Appalachia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 May 2011

Kirk Hazen
West Virginia University


In this paper I examine how a classic feature of variationist research, coronal stop deletion (CSD), operates at the end of the 20th century in one of the most renowned vernacular dialects in the United States, English in Appalachia. Through examination of CSD in a corpus of Appalachian speech, this paper also focuses on the methodological choices available. Several methodological questions are reviewed, such as the choices concerning voicing of the codas (wind vs. went vs. west). The corpus comprises interviews with 67 Appalachian speakers, yielding 17,694 tokens of potential CSD. These were analyzed using quantitative variationist methodology to reveal that morphological categories are less influential than even the preceding phonological environment. This finding is in stark contrast with some other vernacular varieties and suggests that apparent morphological influences are actually phonological influences that present themselves as morphological trends. Overall, the following phonological environment is overwhelmingly the most influential linguistic factor on the rate of CSD. These Appalachian speakers maintain relatively high rates, in effect constraining the social distinctions within Appalachia that could possibly be made using CSD, but marking them as vernacular speakers for those outside Appalachia.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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