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    Becker, Kara 2016. Linking community coherence, individual coherence, and bricolage: The co-occurrence of (r), raised bought and raised bad in New York City English. Lingua, Vol. 172-173, p. 87.


(r) we there yet? The change to rhoticity in New York City English

  • Kara Becker (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 16 June 2014

Labov (1966, 1972b) described the variable production of coda /r/ in New York City English (NYCE) as a change in progress from above in the direction of rhoticity. Since then, scholars have commented on the slow rate of change toward rhoticity in NYCE and characterized (r) as a superposed feature restricted to formal speech (Fowler, 1987; Labov, 1994; Labov, Ash, & Boberg, 2006). This study's ethnically diverse sample of speakers from the Lower East Side of Manhattan (n = 65) shows a mean rate of /r/ production of 68%, with young people, women, and middle-class speakers leading in the production of /r/ in apparent time. Speakers from five ethnic backgrounds—African American, Chinese, Jewish, Puerto Rican, and white—show coherence for the internal constraints on variable nonrhoticity. However, only Chinese, Jewish, and white speakers participate in the change toward rhoticity. These findings highlight the role of ethnicity in patterns of variation and change and demonstrate that the change toward rhoticity in NYCE has accelerated and is no longer restricted to formal speech.

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Kara Becker . (2009). /r/ and the construction of place identity on New York City's Lower East Side. Journal of Sociolinguistics 13(5):634658.

Carmen Fought . (1999). A majority sound change in a minority community: /u/-fronting in Chicano English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3(1):523.

Yakira Frank . (1948). The speech of New York City. PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

William Labov . (2006). The social stratification of English in New York City. 2nd ed.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Raven I. McDavid Jr. (1948). Postvocalic /r/ in South Carolina: A social analysis. American Speech 23:192203.

John Myhill . (1988). Postvocalic /r/ as an index of integration into the BEV speech community. American Speech 63:203213.

John R. Rickford . (2006). Down for the count? The Creole Origins Hypothesis of AAVE at the hands of the Ottowa Circle, and their supporters. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 21(1):97155.

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Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
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