LINGUIST List 15.493

Fri Feb 6 2004

Diss: Socioling: Josey: 'A Sociolinguistic...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. mjosey, A Sociolinguistic Study of Phonetic Variation and Change...

Message 1: A Sociolinguistic Study of Phonetic Variation and Change...

Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 16:44:57 -0500 (EST)
From: mjosey <>
Subject: A Sociolinguistic Study of Phonetic Variation and Change...

Institution: New York University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Meredith Pugh Josey

Dissertation Title: A Sociolinguistic Study of Phonetic Variation
and Change on the Island of Martha's Vineyard

Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics 

Dissertation Director 1: Renee Blake
Dissertation Director 2: John Singler
Dissertation Director 3: Gregory Guy

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation explores sociolinguistic issues surrounding the /ay/
and /au/ diphthongs on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
I first present a synchronic analysis of raising and fronting, or
centralization, of /ay/ and /au/ found in words such as "tight" and
"house". This study also revisits Labov's (1962, 1963, 1972a)
germinal sociolinguistic work on Martha's Vineyard speech to allow for
a comparison of past and present linguistic use. The current
sociolinguistic analysis of these diphthongs sheds light on the
diachronic process of a sound change. 

Four decades ago, Labov observed that the first element of the /ay/
and /au/ diphthongs was centralized for Martha's Vineyard men,
particularly middle-aged fishermen, and correlated it with certain
linguistic and social factors like identity (i.e., local heritage) and
resistance to summer visitors. My previous research indicated that,
in recent decades, islanders have been using mainland linguistic
features as more and more new residents and tourists inundate this
once tranquil maritime community. In this dissertation, I offer a
more complete sociolinguistic analysis of the /ay/ and /au/ diphthongs
from a new set of data from both men and women, collected in a speech
community on Martha's Vineyard.

The outcome of this investigation suggests a change in the linguistic
patterns observed by Labov, away from centralization, mainly guided by
the notion of the "linguistic market". I argue in this dissertation
that the linguistic change, or de-centralization, of the /ay/ and /au/
diphthongs which has occurred is due to the socioeconomic
restructuring and ideological changes that are taking place on the
island, all of which are driven by socioeconomic factors and the
linguistic market. These changes, in essence, are a result of a
recognized reliance by islanders on new residents and tourists for
financial stability. The acoustic and social factors are analyzed
using VARBRUL to show how /ay/ and /au/ variation patterns today with
various internal and external factors found to be salient in Labov's
earlier study.
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