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Multiple vectors of unidirectional dialect change in eastern New England

  • James N. Stanford (a1), Nathan A. Severance (a1) and Kenneth P. Baclawski (a1)

Traditional eastern New England (ENE) dialect features are rapidly receding in many parts of northern New England. Because this ENE shift involves seven different phonological features, it provides a prime opportunity to explore different rates of change across multiple linguistic variables at the same time in the same social setting. The present study is the first acoustic sociophonetic investigation of central New Hampshire, and it is based on new field data from 51 adult speakers. Results show that young generations are discarding many traditional ENE pronunciations in favor of leveled, nonregional forms, yet the changes are affecting some variables more quickly than others. Many distinctive traditional ENE variants (nonrhotic speech, intrusive-r, fronted father, “broad-a” in bath) are quickly receding, while others (fronted start and hoarse/horse distinction) are somewhat more conservative, being “overshadowed” by the presence of (r) as a variable within the same syllable. We frame our apparent-time analysis in terms of Sankoff's (2013a) notion of “age vectors” and Labov's (2012) “outward orientation” of the language faculty, illustrating how different generations are juggling multiple age vectors within the same overall shift, and how one variable can overshadow another variable within the same syllable.

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