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LINGUIST List 21.658

Mon Feb 08 2010

Diss: Socioling: Dinkin: 'Dialect Boundaries and Phonological...'

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        1.    Aaron Dinkin, Dialect Boundaries and Phonological Change in Upstate New York

Message 1: Dialect Boundaries and Phonological Change in Upstate New York
Date: 05-Feb-2010
From: Aaron Dinkin <ajdpost.harvard.edu>
Subject: Dialect Boundaries and Phonological Change in Upstate New York
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Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Aaron J. Dinkin

Dissertation Title: Dialect Boundaries and Phonological Change in Upstate New
York

Dissertation URL: http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/79/

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)


Dissertation Director(s):
William Labov

Dissertation Abstract:

The eastern half of New York State is a dialectologically diverse region
around which several dialect regions converge: the Inland North, New York
City, Western New England, and Canada. These regions differ with respect to
major parameters of North American English phonological variation; and
therefore the interface between them is of interest because the location
and structure of their boundaries can illuminate constraints on
phonological changes and their geographic diffusion. In this dissertation,
interviews with 119 speakers in New York State are conducted and
phonetically analyzed in order to determine the dialect geography of this
region in detail.

The sampled area is divisible into several dialect regions. The Inland
North fringe contains communities that were settled principally from
southwestern New England; here the Northern Cities Shift (NCS) is present,
but not as consistently as in the Inland North proper. In the core of the
Hudson Valley, there is clear influence from New York City phonology. The
Hudson Valley fringe, between the Hudson Valley core and the Inland North,
exhibits some NCS features, but no raising of /æ/ higher than /e/; this is
attributed to the effect of the nasal /æ/ system in blocking diffusion of
full /æ/-raising. The North Country, in the northeastern corner of the
state, is the only sampled region where the low back merger is well
advanced, but the merger is in progress over the long term in the other
regions except for the Hudson Valley core; this illustrates that the NCS
does not effectively prevent merger.

General theoretical inferences include the following: (potentially
allophonic) segments, not phonemes, are the basic unit of chain shifting,
and one allophone can prevent another from being moved into its phonetic
space; the effect of diffusion of a phonemic merger from one region to
another may merely be a slow trend in the recipient region toward merger;
and isoglosses for lexically-specific features may correspond better to
popular regional boundaries than do phonological isoglosses. Finally, a
definition of dialect boundaries as obstacles to diffusion is introduced.
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