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Investigating St. John’s English: Real- and Apparent-time Perspectives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 June 2016

Pauline Hollett*
Affiliation:
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Abstract

The Canadian English vowel system is undergoing a shift, and the dialect of English spoken in St John’s, Newfoundland—which for demographic and geographic reasons has remained autonomous from North American varieties—is being affected by this change. Incorporating both real-time and apparent-time data, the findings show a process of communal and generational change. The front lax vowel lowering and/or retraction that characterize Canadian Shift appear to be active in St. John’s English. Consistent with the late adoption model of language change, older speakers show ongoing changes from their early 20s through to middle age. Moreover, the older female cohort seems to lead in the adoption of supralocal Canadian English forms, and this both in apparent time and in real time. This challenges the idea that younger generations are the sole or primary locus of language change. While innovative forms are typically associated with younger speakers, this study shows that they can also be adopted, accelerated, and advanced by older speakers.

Résumé

Résumé

Le système vocalique de l’anglais canadien subit un ré-alignement, et le dialecte de l’anglais parlé à St John’s, Terre-Neuve—qui pour des raisons démographiques et géographiques est demeuré autonome par rapport aux autres variétés de l’Amérique du Nord—est affecté par ce changement. Incorporant des données en temps réel et apparent, les résultats indiquent qu’il y a un processus de changement communautaire et générationnel. L’abaissement et/ou la rétraction de la voyelle avancée relâchée qui caractérise le Canadian Shift semble être actif dans l’anglais de St. John’s. Conformément au modèle d’adoption tardive du changement linguistique, les locuteurs plus âgés manifestent des changements en cours qui datent de la vingtaine et se prolongent jusqu’à la quarantaine. De plus, les femmes plus âgées semblent prendre de l’avance dans l’adoption de formes supralocales de l’anglais canadien, et ceci en temps apparent et en temps réel. Ceci remet en question l’idée que la jeunesse est l’origine unique ou privilégière du changement linguistique. Alors que les formes innovatrices sont typiquement associées aux locuteurs plus jeunes, cette étude démontre qu’elles peuvent aussi être adoptées, accélérées et promulguées par des locuteurs plus âgées.

Type
Sounds Canadian
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Linguistic Association 2006

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