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LINGUIST List 24.3783

Wed Sep 25 2013

Diss: Phonetics, Phonology, Sociolinguistics: Morris: 'Sociolinguistic Variation and Regional Minority Language Bilingualism ...'

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

Date: 25-Sep-2013
From: Jonathan Morris <MorrisJ17cf.ac.uk>
Subject: Sociolinguistic Variation and Regional Minority Language Bilingualism: An investigation of Welsh-English bilinguals in North Wales
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Institution: University of Manchester
Program: Linguistics and English Language
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Jonathan Morris

Dissertation Title: Sociolinguistic Variation and Regional Minority Language Bilingualism: An investigation of Welsh-English bilinguals in North Wales

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            Welsh (cym)

Dissertation Director:
Yaron Matras
Yuni Kim
Maciej Baranowski

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis investigates phonetic and phonological variation in the
bilingual repertoire of adolescent Welsh-English bilinguals living in North
Wales. It contributes to linguistic research by, firstly, providing an
account of language variation in an under-studied area (N. Wales) and
context (regional minority language bilingualism) and, secondly, by
examining cross-linguistic variation, and the constraints on this
variation, in bilingual speech. The two variables under discussion differ
in how they are realised in the two languages: /l/ is thought to be heavily
velarised in both languages as a result of long-term contact and
phonological convergence. Variation in the production of /r/ and
realisation of coda /r/ has hitherto been reported as language-specific,
though frequent transfer is said to occur from Welsh to English in
predominantly Welsh-speaking areas (e.g. Penhallurick 2004: 110; Wells
1982: 390).

The first aim of the study is therefore to quantify claims of phonological
convergence and transfer in the speech of Welsh-English bilinguals by using
a variationist sociolinguistics methodology (e.g. Labov 1966), which also
considers the influence of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors on
variation. Particular attention is paid to differences between a majority
Welsh-speaking town and a town where English is the main language. A
further distinction is made between those from Welsh-speaking homes and
those from English-speaking homes who have acquired Welsh through immersion

The second aim is to make empirically-informed theoretical claims about the
nature of phonological convergence and transfer, and conceptualise
cross-linguistic interaction in the speech of Welsh-English bilinguals in
light of existing frameworks.

Data (sociolinguistic interviews and wordlists) were collected in Welsh and
English from 32 Welsh-English bilinguals aged 16-18. The sample was equally
stratified in terms of speaker sex, home language, and area. The two towns
compared in the study are Caernarfon (N.W. Wales, where c.88% of the
population speak Welsh) and Mold (N.E. Wales, where c. 20% Welsh of the
population speak Welsh).

The results indicate that English [ɫ] tends to be lighter than Welsh [ɫ] in
word-initial onset position for females, and in word-medial intervocalic
position for both males and females. The data also show linguistic
influences on the realisation of [ɫ] in both languages, and differences
between males and females.

The realisation of coda /r/ and production of [r] and [ɾ] in English are
confined to the speech of those from Welsh-speaking homes in Caernarfon. In
Welsh, use of [ɹ] is widespread and is constrained by a more complex
interaction between area, home language, and sex.

On the basis of these findings, I conclude that features which have
undergone phonological convergence due to long-term language contact may be
subject to language-specific constraints when implemented phonetically. In
terms of transfer, I argue for a ternary distinction between interference,
transfer, and transfer which is constrained by linguistic and/or
extra-linguistic factors (cf. Grosjean 2012). Finally, I suggest that
Mufwene’s (2001) notion of the ‘feature pool’ is the most succinct way of
conceptualising Welsh-English transfer and differentiate between more
focussed accents of English and a less-focussed variety of North Wales Welsh.

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