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Each p[ɚ]son does it th[εː] way: Rhoticity variation and the community grammar

  • Tam Blaxter (a1), Kate Beeching (a2), Richard Coates (a2), James Murphy (a2) and Emily Robinson (a2)...

This paper examines individual differences in constraints on linguistic variation in light of Labov's (2007) proposal that adult change (diffusion) disrupts systems of constraints and Tamminga, MacKenzie, and Embick's (2016) typology of constraints. It is shown that, in pooling data from multiple speakers, some of the complexity in structured community variation may be overlooked. Data on rhoticity from speakers of Bristol English are compared to 34 previous studies of rhoticity in varieties of English around the world. Constraints found to be consistent across varieties are also found to be consistent across speakers of Bristol English, whereas those that differ between varieties also differ between individuals, implying that only those which differ are truly part of the grammar, and that these are indeed disrupted by diffusion.

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Acknowledgments are made to the Bristol Centre for Linguistics (BCL) at the University of the West of England, which funded and coordinated this project. Thanks go to Sali Tagliamonte and to the audience at Language Variation and Change in the South of England 2017 for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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