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LINGUIST List 24.3230

Fri Aug 09 2013

Diss: Sociolinguistics: Nylund: 'Phonological Variation at the Intersection of Ethnoracial Identity, Place and Style in Washington, D.C.'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

Date: 08-Aug-2013
From: Anastasia Nylund <an249georgetown.edu>
Subject: Phonological Variation at the Intersection of Ethnoracial Identity, Place and Style in Washington, D.C.
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Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Anastasia Nylund

Dissertation Title: Phonological Variation at the Intersection of Ethnoracial Identity, Place and Style in Washington, D.C.

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Natalie Schilling-Estes
Heidi E Hamilton
Robert J. Podesva

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines phonological variation in Washington, DC, which
has remained largely unexplored in urban sociolinguistics. The paucity of
research on language in DC relates to its regional and dialectal
marginality, its unique African American (AA) and European American (EA)
settlement histories, and its current public image as a cosmopolitan,
transient city.

Three phonological features in 21 sociolinguistic interviews with lifelong
AA and EA Washingtonians are analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively: /l/
vocalization (coo' for cool), alveolar (ING) (runnin' for running) and
Coronal Stop Deletion (eas' en' for east end). I analyze the features'
community-level patterning, as well as intragroup distributions and
stylistic (intraspeaker) uses of the features towards interactional
enactments of speakers' Washingtonian identities.

At the community level, Coronal Stop Deletion is not significantly affected
by ethnoracial affiliation, sex, age, and educational attainment; alveolar
(ING) and /l/ vocalization are more extensively used among AAs than EAs.
The overall absence of /l/ vocalization among EAs supports previous
analyses of /l/ vocalization in West Virginia and (ay)-monophthongization
in Maryland, which attribute loss of these Southern features to increased
alignment with DC, the region's economic hub.

While the community-level links between the features and AA identity are
expected, significant intragroup diversity is present and demands closer
attention. Not all AAs use the three features similarly, and speakers with
similar lived experience are linguistically diverse. I call the
constellations of features within groups and individuals stylistic
repertoires, following the notions of ethnolinguistic repertoire (Benor
2010) and styling (Coupland 2001, 2007), foregrounding the use of
ethnoracially-linked features toward a variety of goals in interactions,
including ethnoracial solidarity but also the construction of different
types of local identities.

Motivations for variation within a community are inaccessible without
attention to the stylistic use of variable phenomena in discourse about
locally salient themes, and this is particularly important for studying
diverse and contested communities like Washington, DC. This dissertation
contributes to sociolinguistic inquiry through an integrated, qualitative
and quantitative analysis of variation in a community that defies easy
description, and foregrounds intragroup diversity as a key aspect of
contemporary urban sociolinguistics.

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