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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Southern Vowel Shift:Linguistic and Social Factors Add Dissertation
Author: Valerie Fridland Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages
Completed in: 1998
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonology;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Dennis Preston

Abstract: This dissertation investigates the Southern Vowel Shift, a possibly interrelated series of rotations in vowel space currently underway in the dialects of Southern speakers in the United States. Such a rotation essentially relocates vowel classes in the acoustic space previously occupied by other vowels which have also shifted to new positions. Little is known about the direction and progress of this shift, including which groups of speakers in the South are affected by it.

Based on the work of Labov (1991, 1994) and Feagin (1986), it has been claimed that the Southern shift involves changes in both the front vowels and the back vowels, with the tense and lax front vowel nuclei essentially switching places and the back vowels moving forward. Whether these changes to the front vowels and the back vowels are part of the same rotation or two distinct and separate shifts has as of yet been undetermined. What is happening to the low front, the mid, and the back vowel classes in the Southern shift is only superficially explored, but it appears most of the back system is moving front.

In the dissertation, a detailed instrumental analysis of the vowel systems of 25 native Memphians is presented, revealing the movement of vowel classes which seem to be playing an important role in the instigation or perpetuation of the vowel rotation and allowing the determination of what vowel changes are occurring in Southern speech and how these changes affect other changes in the system. The dissertation research also addresses what social factors are responsible for the adaptation of these changes and the prognosis for transmission of the shift in the larger community.

My results suggest that, while many of the changes cited in the literature as affecting Southern speech are indeed present in the sample, the interrelatedness of these changes is not as apparent. Claims of any chain shift process affecting Southern speech are supported marginally at best, only by the changes affecting the front mid vowels /ey/ and /E/, a shift which appears to be in the process of retardation among younger speakers, and are not supported at all by the much more vigorous and increasingly continuing changes affecting the back vowel subsystem or the low vowel classes.