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Social Change & Sound Change


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Edited slides from an invited talk at the University of Manchester, School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures. The talk presents an analysis of the low back vowel merger in San Francisco English and talks about the relationship between social meaning and social change to analyses of sound change.

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Social Change & Sound Change

  1. 1. Tracking Social Change through Sound Change<br />The lot/thought merger among Chinese- & Irish-Americans in San Francisco, California<br />Lauren Hall-Lew<br /><br />
  2. 2.
  3. 3. Accounting for LVC<br />Weinreich, Labov, & Herzog 1968<br />“The key to a rational conception of language change – indeed, of language itself – is the possibility of describing orderly differentiation in a language serving a community.” (100-101)<br />
  4. 4. Accounting for LVC<br />Labov 2001 (inter alia)<br />differentiation across a community is understood as correlations between linguistic variation and macrosocial structures: socioeconomic class, gender, ethnicity<br />Labov 2002<br />“‘the great chain shifts sweeping across North America are more like ocean currents than local games” (p283, cited in Eckert 2008)<br />
  5. 5. Accounting for LVC<br />Eckert 2008<br />a more explanatory account of linguistic variation must see language as social practice<br />the goal is not to account for language change<br />the goal is to account for meaning-making at the level of phonetic variation<br />
  6. 6. Accounting for LVC<br />Foulkes, Scobbie, Watt (to appear)<br />“The array of structured variation available to an individual, coupled with other factors such as ideology ... can be seen as a rich resource from which the individual can choose elements in order to project their identity and achieve particular communicative goals.”<br />
  7. 7. Accounting for LVC<br />Foulkes, Scobbie, Watt (to appear)<br />“Changes operate because communities are heterogeneous, and because speaker-listeners evaluate competing linguistic forms. They recognise that variants have indexical meanings and thus that their use may be more or less attractive, appropriate or valuable in particular social circumstances.”<br />
  8. 8. Accounting for LVC<br />Eckert 2008:<br />Understanding the construction of social meaning is the point of analytic departure <br />This Talk:<br />Understanding patterns of sound change emerges from an understanding of meaning<br />The rate at which a sound change progresses may be affected by its social meaning<br />
  9. 9. Accounting for LVC<br />The phonetic variables Eckert (2008) refers to are all stable variables:<br />/-ɪn/ vs. /-ɪŋ/<br />/t/-release (intensity of /th/ burst)<br />/θ/ & /ð/ fortition<br />rhotacization in Beijing Mandarin (Zhang 2005)<br />Indexical meanings are clearer for these than for sound changes<br />
  10. 10. Indexical Field: /-ɪn/ vs. /-ɪŋ/<br />
  11. 11. Indexical Field: /th/<br />
  12. 12. Accounting for LVC<br />What about sound changes?<br />more subtle: they haven’t been around as long as stable variables have, so their indexical fields are not as developed<br />example exception: Martha’s Vineyard<br /> diphthongs’ nucleus height indexed orientations to particular island identities<br />
  13. 13. Sound Change & Social Change<br />Today’s Argument:<br />linguistic changes-in-progress & social changes-in-progress may be mutually constitutive<br />attention to social meaning in the context of social change may enrich the account of a pattern of linguistic change, towards “describing orderly differentiation in a language serving a community”<br />
  14. 14. Sound Change & Social Change<br />Questions:<br />How do demographic shifts change the way residents imagine their community?<br />How do demographic shifts influence the link between social practices and prestige values?<br />How do demographic shifts alter the meaning of local authenticity?<br />How can this be seen in patterns of local sound change-in-progress?<br />
  15. 15. Ethnographic Sociophonetics<br />Statistical correlations between a given speaker’s social identity and their use of linguistic variation & change, +<br />Participant-Observation fieldwork methodology & ethnographic interviews<br />community involvement; personal investment; determining what is important to the members of the community<br />
  16. 16. Ethnographic Sociophonetics<br />The Analysis<br />Ethnographic fieldwork informs the choice of social variables in the statistical analysis <br /><ul><li>e.g., how many levels of the category ‘gender’</li></ul>Ethnographic fieldwork informs the interpretation of statistical correlations<br />Language change and social change do not always co-occur in the same ways; the goal is to identify situated patterns of co-occurrence <br />
  17. 17. Sound Change & Social Change<br />in San Francisco, California<br />
  18. 18. Social Change in San Francisco<br />Rapidly developing city: 1849 – to present<br />Microcosm of change: The Sunset District<br />
  19. 19. The Study<br />Sunset District, San Francisco, California, USA<br />Fieldwork:<br />throughout 2008 & 2009<br />Interviews:<br />spring/summer 2008<br />
  20. 20. The Sunset District (San Francisco, CA, USA)<br />
  21. 21. The Study<br />The Social Change<br />The city’s history of development<br />The neighborhood’s recent demographic shift<br />The Linguistic Change<br />The development of English in the Western U.S.<br />The city’s history of vowel pronunciation<br />The most recent vowel changes in California<br />
  22. 22. the neighborhood (1900)<br />
  23. 23. the neighborhood (1900)<br />
  24. 24. the neighborhood (1936)<br />
  25. 25. the neighborhood (1940s)<br />
  26. 26. the neighborhood (2008)<br />
  27. 27. First immigrants<br />from Ireland (& Irish<br />from NYC area) to SF<br />Movement out of <br />the Sunset District<br />Movement out of the Mission District;<br />Movement into the Sunset District<br />First immigrants<br />from China to SF<br />‘Paper Son’<br />immigration<br />Movement out of Chinatown;<br />Movement into the Sunset District<br />Chinese <br />Exclusion <br />Asian<br />Exclusion<br />Immigration<br />& Nationality<br />1924<br />1882<br />1965<br />1849<br />1998<br />1906<br />1945<br />Discovery<br />of gold<br />Earthquake<br />& Fire<br />End of<br />WWII<br />Tech<br />boom<br />> 90% White<br />< 50% White<br />
  28. 28. Sunset<br />Population<br />(98,450)<br />
  29. 29. Sunset<br />Population<br />(98,450)<br />
  30. 30. Social Change in Everyday Life<br />(In the talk, here I played seven quotes from Sunset District residents/interviewees about how they imagine their community, and how rapidly that imagining has changed, over the years, from an Irish American working-class neighborhood to a Chinese American ‘new Chinatown’)<br />
  31. 31. Sunset District Demographics<br />Social change has happened quickly!<br />Generational differences among neighborhood residents in terms of the discursive construction of community identity<br />How we see this in linguistic change:<br />This negotiation of local identity is partially accomplished through engagement with competing linguistic markets<br />Different phonetic productions index different orientations toward the neighborhood<br />
  32. 32. Linguistic Markets<br />Bourdieu 1977, 1991<br />Linguistic performance can be understood within an economy of symbolic exchange<br />Instances of speech are commodities within a market of linguistic exchange<br />In communicative situations, speakers engage in exchanges of their own linguistic capital<br />
  33. 33. Linguistic Markets<br />Sankoff & LaBerge 1978 (cf Gal 1978, 1979)<br />Linguistic market participation predicts quantitative linguistic variation<br />Woolard 1985, 1989<br />Alternative linguistic markets may arise which assign value to non-standard varieties<br />
  34. 34. Linguistic Markets in the Sunset District<br />
  35. 35. ‘The Traditional Market’<br />‘The Emergent Market’<br />Evidence:<br />observed everyday practices (ask for details…) &<br />metalinguistic(& other) statements in interviews<br />Linguistic Markets in the Sunset District<br />
  36. 36. ‘Cheri’, Irish American, age 65:<br /> Uh yes, yes. Uh native San Franciscans have– either a Bostonian or:: a combination Bostonian/New York uh accent and you d– you will tell a real native– My son doesn’t, so to speak? But yes, they’ve commented, they go “Where are you from.”<br />(Lauren: Who’s ‘they’?)<br /> Just people! Just people that I, that I talk to.<br />
  37. 37. ‘Mary’, Irish American, age 29:<br /> [Growing up in San Francisco] <br />you get to pull:: like– anything you want out of the different influence[s] you had growing up, and it comes off natural. I– you know, I went to Cornell, um, after having gone to S.I., you know I was about as cartoonishly, you know, upwardly-mobile White girl as you get, but I could slip into how I talked when I was in middle school and people were like “Whoa, how do you know how to talk like that?” you know and I was like “Oh, hh, all I wanted to be when I was 13 was a 5-foot-tall Asian girl who could breakdance!”<br />
  38. 38. Linguistic Markets in the Sunset District<br />The Traditional Market<br />Persona of Ideal Speaker: European American (especially Irish), masculine, upper working class<br />Language ideology: San Francisco is not like the rest of California; it’s more like NYC/Boston<br />The Emergent Market<br />Persona of Ideal Speaker: Asian American (especially Chinese), middle class<br />Language ideology: San Francisco is like the rest of (Northern) California; multiethnic=good<br />
  39. 39. Sociophonetic evidence?<br />Patterns of variable production, between speakers, of those linguistic changes that index prestige values relative to each linguistic market<br />Linguistic Markets in the Sunset District<br />
  40. 40. Linguistic Change in San Francisco<br />California is usually the leader in Western U.S. sound change, especially vowel shifts<br />The most discussed vowel shift is the ‘Low Back Merger’, also known as the cot/caught or lot/thought merger<br />
  41. 41. LowBack Merger<br />merger-in-progress:<br />overlap in production<br />confusable in perception<br />phonetically, some of it is:<br />backing & raising of /ɑ/ (LOT)<br />but mostly, it’s:<br />fronting, lowering, unrounding and/or monophthongization of /ɔ/ (THOUGHT)<br />41<br />
  42. 42. LowBack Merger<br />examples (sound clips):<br />‘Enid’, Chinese American, age 76: distinct<br />We shop, we walk...<br />‘Maya’, Chinese & Filipino, age 24: merged<br />… talk a lot … <br />42<br />
  43. 43. LowBack Merger<br />In San Francisco:<br />DeCamp 1953<br />“It is possible … that this coalescence is beginning in San Francisco. … The entire subject needs further investigation.” (p556)<br />Moonwomon 1992<br />“The merger … is well advanced in San Francisco.” (p193)<br />“All ten younger speakers show complete or almost complete overlap of the two variables’ distributions.” (p203)<br />The Atlas of North American English 2006<br />43<br />
  44. 44. ANAE: Low Back Merger<br />44<br />
  45. 45. ANAE: Low Back Merger<br />45<br />
  46. 46. Linguistic Change in San Francisco<br />California is usually the leader in Western U.S. Vowel Shifts<br />Most discussed is the Low Back Merger, or the cot/caught or lot/thought merger<br />But for some San Franciscans, the change is lagging behind, while for others, the change has taken place<br />Could this be because of competing linguistic markets?<br />
  47. 47. Phonetic Data Collection<br />Collection of individual productions of the low back vowels from a subset of speakers<br />Acoustic measurements of each vowel token<br /><ul><li>(detailed phonetic info available; please ask!)</li></ul>For each speaker, statistical calculation of the overall difference between that speaker’s lot and thought vowels<br />Statistical comparison of that difference measure with age, gender & ethnicity<br />
  48. 48. The Speakers<br />In the Sunset since at least age 5<br />so all at least 2nd generation American<br />speaking English as their primary language<br />or, In San Francisco since birth<br />in the Sunset for several decades<br />in the Sunset at the time of the interview<br />only used for speakers age 50+<br />48<br />
  49. 49. Sunset<br />Population<br />(98,450)<br />Speakers<br />Phonetically<br />Analyzed<br />(30)<br />Speakers<br />Interviewed<br />(90)<br />
  50. 50. The Speakers (N=30)<br />Ages 16–76<br />17 Females, 13 Males<br />16 Asian Americans<br />Chinese = 12<br />Filipino = 1<br />Japanese = 1<br />Mixed = 2<br />14 European Americans<br />Irish = 4<br />Other = 10<br />50<br />
  51. 51. Statistical Results<br />linguistic factor:<br />extent of vowel difference (Pillai score) between clusters of lot- and thought-class tokens<br />social factors:<br />age (continuous)<br />ethnicity (binary)*<br />gender (binary)<br />*Binary categories are partially motivated by ethnographic work,<br />but also erase intracategory distinctions – please ask for details.<br />
  52. 52. age: p < 0.01<br />
  53. 53. ethnicity: p = 0.69<br />age for AA: p < 0.01<br />age for EA: p = 0.20<br />
  54. 54. sex: p < 0.07<br />age for W: p <0.03<br />age for M: p = 0.26<br />
  55. 55.
  56. 56.
  57. 57. Interim Summary<br />overall, the low back vowels are merging in the English of young San Franciscans<br />but low back merger is not produced by all, not even all young speakers<br />ethnicity is not an independent predictor<br />but Asian Americans show change in apparent time towards merger, while Whites don’t<br />sex/gender is not an independent predictor<br />but women show change in apparent time towards merger, while men don’t<br />
  58. 58. The Role of Social Meaning<br />Could San Francisco’s apparent resistance to low back merger be related to the social meaning of the low back vowels?<br />
  59. 59. Traditional Market Prestige Value<br />Distinction as prestigious<br />contra, e.g., Utah (Di Paolo 1993)<br />potential evidence from Wordlist data:<br />‘Mickey’, Multiracial, age 62:<br />“…cot- COT caught…”<br /><ul><li>Next step: Perception Study</li></li></ul><li>The Role of Social Meaning<br />Could San Francisco’s apparent resistance to low back merger be related to the social meaning of the low back vowels?<br />Proposal: low back vowel distinction, or specifically backed/raised thought, indexes one kind of local authenticity; merger indexes another<br />
  60. 60. Linguistic Markets in San Francisco<br />The Traditional Market<br />Persona of Ideal Speaker: European American (especially Irish), masculine, upper working class<br />Distinction (or raised thought vowel)<br />The Emergent Market<br />Persona of Ideal Speaker: Asian American (especially Chinese), middle class<br />Merger (or lowered thought vowel)<br />
  61. 61. Indexical Fields: lot & thought in SF<br />Low Back Merger<br />Low Back Distinction<br />
  62. 62. The Emergent Market<br />Linguistic practices are social practices<br />Emergent practices blur or redefine traditional indexical relationships between ethnicity and social life<br />
  63. 63. The Emergent Market<br />In San Francisco, Chinese ethnic practices are gaining local authenticity, crossing into social spaces traditionally claimed by Irish & other ‘White’ ethnic practices<br />
  64. 64. Conclusion<br />Some speakers are orienting towards a newer regional pattern of vowel merger, while others are oriented toward an older linguistic market where the vowel distinction has greater symbolic value<br />This may be one reason that San Francisco lags behind the rest of the Western US with respect to the merger of lot and thought<br />
  65. 65. Conclusion<br />Patterns of linguistic change can illuminate processes of social change<br />Patterns of social change can illuminate processes of linguistic change<br />Attention to the social meaning of linguistic variants can give us an enriched account of patterns of variation<br />
  66. 66. Thank You!<br />comments & questions:<br /><br />