From: Ian Bekker <i.bekkerru.ac.za>
Subject: The Vowels of South African English
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Institution: North-West University
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009
Author: Ian Bekker
Dissertation Title: The Vowels of South African English
Dissertation URL: http://oldwww.ru.ac.za/academic/departments/linguistics/staff/ian/phdmain.pdf
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
Bertus Van Rooy
This thesis provides a comparative analysis of vowel quality in South
African English (SAE) using the following data: firstly, the existing
impressionistic literature on SAE and other relevant accents of English,
the former of which is subject to a critical review; secondly, acoustic
data from a similar range of accents, including new SAE data, collected and
instrumentally analyzed specifically for the purposes of this research.
These various data are used to position, on both a descriptive and
theoretical level, the SAE vowel system.
In addition, and in the service of providing a careful reconstruction of
the linguistic history of this variety, it offers a three-stage
koineization model which helps, in many respects, to illuminate the
respective roles played by endogenous and exogenous factors in SAE's
More generally, the analysis is focussed on rendering explicit the extent
to which the synchronic status and diachronic development of SAE more
generally, and SAE vowel quality more particularly, provides support for a
number of descriptive and theoretical frameworks, including those provided
in Labov (1994), Torgersen and Kerswill (2004), Trudgill (2004) and
Schneider (2003; 2007). With respect to these frameworks, and based on the
results of the analysis, it proposes an extension to Schneider's (2007)
Dynamic Model, shows Trudgill's (2004) model of new-dialect formation to be
inadequate in accounting for some of the SAE data, provides evidence that
SAE is a possibly imminent but 'conservative' member of Torgersen and
Kerswill's (2004) SECS-Shift and uses SAE data to question the
applicability of the SECS-Shift to FOOT-Fronting.
Furthermore, this thesis provides evidence that SAE has undergone an
indexically-driven arrestment of the Diphthong and Southern Shifts and a
subsequent and related diffusion of GenSAE values at the expense of BrSAE
ones. Similarly, it shows that SAE's possible participation in the
SECS-Shift constitutes an effective chain-shift reversal 'from above'. It
stresses that, in order to understand such phenomena, recourse needs to be
made to a theory of indexicality that takes into account the unique
sociohistorical development of SAE and its speakers.
Lastly, the adoption of the three-stage koineization model mentioned above
highlights the merits of considering both endogenous and exogenous factors
in the historical reconstruction of new-dialect formation and, for research
into SAE in particular, strengthens the case for further investigation into
the possible effects of 19th-century Afrikaans/Dutch, Yiddish and
north-of-English dialects on the formation of modern SAE.
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