Phonological Variation at the Intersection of Ethnoracial Identity, Place, and Style in Washington, D.C.
This dissertation examines phonological variation in Washington, DC, which has remained under-explored in urban sociolinguistics. The paucity of research on language in DC relates to its 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), -in (runnin' for running) and Coronal Stop Deletion (eas' en' for east end). I analyze the features' community-level patterning, as well as inter- and 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, or educational attainment; -in 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 life experiences 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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Tseng, Amelia (Georgetown University, 2015)This study investigates the interrelationship of language, identity, and /ae/ (“ash”) variation along the first-formant (F1) and second-formant (F2) dimensions, in first- and second- generation Latinos in the Washington, ...