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A variationist multilocality study of unstressed vowels and verbal -s marking in the peripheral dialect of east Suffolk

Potter, Robert (2018) A variationist multilocality study of unstressed vowels and verbal -s marking in the peripheral dialect of east Suffolk. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis presents a variationist analysis of two linguistic variables among 72 speakers in three Suffolk communities. It is chiefly inspired by the Labovian sociolinguistic methodology, and the work of Trudgill (e.g. 1974, 1988) in another East Anglian locality, Norwich. It broadly speaking seeks to ascertain whether either of the linguistic variables show evidence of change in progress away from traditional East Anglian forms; and if so, whether this could represent dedialectalisation or levelling of the Suffolk dialect. The results show that one of the variables has undergone change, while the other appears to be resisting it. The verbal -s variable, which refers to traditional East Anglian zero marking of third person singular present tense verb forms (e.g. he run, she go, c.f. Standard English he runs and she goes), shows evidence of being at a late stage of change. Across the three locations, younger speakers are almost categorical in their use of the Standard English-like -s marking of third singular subjects, while middle aged and older speakers use traditional East Anglian zero marked forms more often. That said, older speakers still use standard -s marked forms around 73% of the time; suggesting that even for this group the change towards a Standard English-like present-tense verb system is well underway. The ‘David’ variable, the propensity for unstressed /ɪ/ to be realised as schwa in East Anglia, shows the opposite effect. The use of the traditional [ə] variant remains high among all three age groups, albeit with perhaps the slight beginnings of a movement towards [ɪ] among middle aged and younger speakers. Perhaps the most significant finding is that the initial (arbitrary) classification of each of the three locations from which data was collected as ‘urban’, ‘rural’ and ‘intermediate’ does not appear to sufficiently account for the variation uncovered. Instead, the factor of ‘place’ – the specific socio-political context unique to each of the communities – provides a more satisfactory explanation as to why Ipswich (the urban location) and Wickham Market (the rural location) should behave similarly to each other, while Woodbridge (the intermediate community with higher social status) is more innovative in showing greater and earlier movement away from traditional East Anglian features.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Language and Linguistics, Department of
Depositing User: Robert Potter
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2018 12:34
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2019 01:00

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