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Evolutionary Syntax

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Academic Paper

Title: Communities of Practice in Sociolinguistic Description: Analyzing language and identity practices among black women in Appalachia
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Author: Christine Mallinson
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Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Author: Becky Childs
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Institution: Coastal Carolina University
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: In this paper, we examine the identities of eight women who share similar demographic profiles but exhibit different language practices. These middle-aged and older women belong to two social groups, which, we argue, constitute two communities of practice within a small black Appalachian community in the Southern United States. From interview data, we analyze six diagnostic sociolinguistic variables (third singular -s absence, copula absence, rhoticity, consonant cluster reduction, habitual be) and also examine productions of /u/ and /o/. The groups differ significantly in their use of the morphosyntactic and syntactic variables and in their vowel productions, but not the consonantal features. Combining our quantitative findings with qualitative data, we suggest language is one of several vehicles the women use to transmit symbolic messages to others and thereby construct identities for themselves and their groups, whose members adhere to different language ideologies, religious norms, notions of feminine decorum, and educational standards.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed

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