Abstracts are in alphabetical order by presenter last name.
Abstracts A-B
Abstracts C-E
Abstracts F-K
Abstracts L-N
Abstracts O-S
Abstracts T-Z

Click here to view alphabetical list of presenters.


Session 6aFRI : Friday, April 16, 11:20-11:40, Ferguson Theater

The History and Geography of the Caddo Language

Wallace Chafe
University of California, Santa Barbara

The words of my title are to be taken in several different senses. I will first summarize briefly the history of the Caddo people as it is known from available historical records, mentioning their earliest known locations and their several migrations to other areas. Turning to more linguistic matters, I will begin with some remarks on the history of research on the Caddo language. I will then illustrate a few of the ways in which the history of the language itself can be reconstructed. Then I will discuss its place within the Caddoan language family, consisting of Caddo, Pawnee, Arikara, Wichita, and Kitsai, and will touch on possible relations of that family to the Siouan and Iroquoian families. Finally I will illustrate ways in which the Caddo language has been influenced by languages spoken in adjacent areas, including the Indian languages Tonkawa, Arapaho, Osage, and Choctaw, as well as the European languages Spanish, French, and English.


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Session 7bFRI : Friday, April 16,3:15-3:35, Ferguson Forum

The Authenticity of Dialect: Real Isleños Speak Yat, Too

Felice Coles
University of Mississippi

The Isleño dialect of Spanish is a dying language spoken fluently by less than 1500 descendents of Canary Island recruits sent in 1778 to populate the southeastern marshlands of Louisiana. Their ethnic enclave has been approached by the a suburb of New Orleans where a dialect of American English called "Yat" originated in the early 1900s when Irish and Italian immigrants brought as construction workers and laborers commingled with German- and French-heritage residents in the eastern neighborhoods outside the core of the old city. Dillard (1985) believes that port or fishing employment established the Yat dialect in New Orleans, and Isleños, whose primary employment was fishing and trapping, easily interacted with these speakers when they engaged in selling their catches in the markets around New Orleans. Thus, Isleño speakers acquired Yat as their own American English dialect in addition to keeping Isleño Spanish as the language of in-group communication. This study focuses on the choice of code for Isleños: if they have any proficiency in Isleño Spanish they cling to that "rural, popular, archaic" variety (Lipski 1990) inside the enclave but also employ Yat for everyday communication in English. Both dialects are characterized as uneducated accents spoken by proud, fun-loving people (Starnes 1994) of working-class immigrant backgrounds. Thus, Isleños are doubly marked for ethnicity and social class: they speak a nonstandard dialect of Spanish when they are able and a nonstandard dialect of English otherwise. However, the covert prestige of these two dialects means that group membership in the Isleño community is positively evaluated by both its ancestral Spanish origin and its social and regional affiliation with Yat of New Orleans. Yat speakers consider themselves long-time residents of New Orleans, authentic Orleanians without pretensions of social climbing. "Good, down-to-earth people" and "regular folks" are identifications which allow Yat speakers to believe that their dialect embodies the good qualities of their community (Starnes 1994). Because "authentic" Isleños can no longer rely solely on use of Isleño Spanish as a marker of identity, their methods of authenticating a "real" Isleño now extends to length of residence in the older New Orleans neighborhoods where Yat is spoken. The connotation of authenticity surrounding Yat also allows Isleños who are only passively bilingual or "rememberers" (Lestrade 2002) in Isleño Spanish but who speak Yat as their native dialect of English to feel pride as in-group members despite their lack of proficiency in Spanish.
Dillard, J. L. 1985. Language and linguistic research in Louisiana. Pp. 1-42 in Nicholas Spitzer (ed.) Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State. aton Rouge: Moran Colographics, Inc.
Lestrade, Patricia. 2002. The continuing decline of Isleño Spanish in ouisiana. Southwest Journal of Linguistics 21:99-117.
Lipski, John M. 1990. The Language of the Isleños: Vestigial Spanish in ouisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Starnes, Mary. 1994. Attitudes toward Yat dialect speakers in New Orleans, ouisiana. Pp. 21-32 in Linda DePascual, et al. (eds.) New Orleans eighborhood Talk. New Orleans: Loyola University of New Orleans.


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Session 3bTHR: Thursday, April 15, 2:00-2:20, Ferguson Forum

The fronting of /u/ among African-Americans: evidence from LAMSAS data

Michael Colley
University of Georgia

The fronting of the back vowel /u/ in words like “boot” has long been considered a feature of white speakers in the southeastern United States (Thomas 2001). It is not usually considered to be a feature of African American speech, as noted in Bailey and Thomas (1998) and others. However, data from the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic states (LAMSAS) show evidence of fronted /u/ for all speakers in the southeastern United States, including African-Americans.

The data for the LAMSAS project were collected primarily in the 1930s and 1940s, with additional data from the 1960s and 1970s. LAMSAS covers a vast area of the eastern United States from New York to Georgia, and emphasizing older rural speakers. Data from all 1162 speakers in LAMSAS were examined, yielding 1322 tokens of /u/ in “two” and 869 tokens of /u/ in “afternoon”. There are 41 African-American speakers in the sample, all living in the South at the time of the interviews.

The LAMSAS data confirm previous findings that /u/ tends to be fronted in the South. The data also show evidence of fronted /u/ vowels among Southern African American speakers. This is unexpected since African Americans are not generally thought to take part in this sound change. However Anderson (Forthcoming) and Anderson and Milroy (1999, 2001, In Preparation) found evidence of fronted /u/ and /U/ among African American speakers in Detroit. Anderson et al. (2002) analyze current day Detroit AAE data in comparison with data collected in Detroit by Walt Wolfram in the 1960s and report that the older data source yields only incipient fronting of /U/ and no fronting of /u/. Fronting of the high back vowels in Detroit AAE appears to be a recent change in progress. Fridland (2001) also found fronting for /u/ and /U/ among middle aged and younger African American speakers in Memphis, TN. Although Anderson and her associates and Fridland conclude that fronting of the high back vowels is a recent change in AAE, and Thomas (2001) reports that /u/ and /U/ are backed in varieties of AAE in the South, the data from LAMSAS do not show any correlation between race and the frontness of /u/. This finding suggests that the historical component to the fronting of /u/ is more complex than previously thought.


Anderson, Bridget. Forthcoming. An Acoustic Study of Southeastern Michigan African American and Appalachian Southern Migrant Vowel Systems. Ph.D. Dissertation. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan.
Anderson, Bridget and Lesley Milroy. 1999. Southern Sound Changes and the Detroit AAVE Vowel System. Paper given at NWAV(E) 28, Toronto.
Anderson, Bridget and Lesley Milroy. 2001. Towards an integrated account of internal and external constraints on language change. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, Washington DC.
Anderson, Bridget and Lesley Milroy. In Preparation. Internal and external constraints on change in the Detroit African-American vowel system: A case study and some further implications. MS. The University of Michigan.
Anderson, Bridget, Jennifer Nguyen and Lesley Milroy. 2002. Fronting of /u/ and /U/ in Detroit AAE: Evidence from Real and Apparent Time. New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 31, Stanford University.
Bailey, Guy, and Erik Thomas. 1998. Some Aspects of AAVE Phonology. African-American English: Structure, History, and Use. Salikoko S. Mufwene, John R. Rickford, Guy Bailey and John Baugh (eds). London: Routledge, 85-109.
Fridland, Valerie. 2001. The Relationship of Network Strength and Changes in the Southern Vowel Shift among African Americans in Memphis, Tennessee. New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 30, North Carolina State University.
Thomas, Erik. 2001. An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. A Publication of the American Dialect Society 85. Durham: Duke University Press.


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Session 10b: Saturday, April 17, 12:35-12:55, Ferguson Forum

Language contact and the acquisition of AAVE: A case study of sociolectal adjustment

Patricia Cukor-Avila
University of North Texas

Apparent time studies have provided the majority of data used in documenting linguistic change (cf. Labov 1963, 1966; Labov et. al 1968; Wolfram 1969; Rickford 1992). Research by Bailey et al. (1991) validates the assumption of the apparent time construct that speakers’ vernaculars remain relatively stable throughout their lifetimes; however, as Bailey (2002) suggests, we cannot assume that the vernaculars of adolescents will remain stable as they progress into adulthood. Bailey shows that the use of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) features by two Springville adolescents increases dramatically over a period of eight years as they identify more with urban norms and less with the rural norms of their childhood. The longitudinal data from these adolescents show that their vernaculars begin to stabilize once they become young adults. However, other studies have suggested a similar kind of instability in the vernaculars of young adults as well, with changes occurring due to pressures from the linguistic marketplace (Sankoff and Sankoff 1973; Sankoff and Laberge 1978; Sankoff et al. 1989). These sociolectal adjustments (Chambers (1995, 2003) are typically caused by market pressures toward a more standardized variety of speech.

The present study investigates sociolectal adjustment of a different kind – the acquisition of AAVE grammatical features by a young Mexican American woman (b. 1974) from the community of Springville, Texas. Recordings from her over an seven-year period from 1995-2002 show a steady increase in the use of zero copula, verbal -s absence, and had+past for simple past in her speech. When she was first recorded in 1995 at the age of twenty-one, none of these features were present in her speech, but as her peer group changes during this period she adopts the norms of the young Springville African American speech community. The discussion of the data also includes an examination of the frequency of the features mentioned above and the constraints on their use to determine if her use of AAVE patterns similarly to that of young Springville residents.

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Session 3aTHR: Thursday, April 15, 2:00-2:20, Ferguson Theater

Genre, the Individual Voice, and Alabama Storytelling

Catherine Evans Davies
University of Alabama

“Storytelling” in the form of traditional narrative is a genre of oral discourse that has received considerable scholarly attention by sociolinguists, drawing on data in the form of personal-experience narratives from different sociocultural contexts in the United States. Apart from Heath (1983) which examines stories by black and white speakers in the rural Carolinas, the other studies have considered data collected from non-Southern speakers (Labov (1972) and Polanyi (1985) from New Yorkers, Schiffrin (1981) from Philadelphians, Johnstone (1990) from Midwesterners, and Norrick (2000) from a wider sampling of white, non-Southern speakers. Most of these narratives conform to the classic oral narrative structure as identified in Labov and Waletsky (1967 ) and Labov (1972). Another sort of discourse defined by its practitioners as “storytelling” does not conform to a classic narrative structure, but can easily be imagined as a component of multi-generational conversations on Alabama front porches during long summer evenings. Falling under the general heading of “first-person reminiscences” and “family stories,” it has long created categorization problems for folklorists (Brunvand 1978, Dorson 1983). Such discourse is captured and represented in short pieces heard as “commentary” on local public radio and then collected on tapes/cds and sold under the title of “Recollections.” The data under analysis here is a group of about 40 of these “recollections” from the pre-eminent storyteller from Alabama, Kathryn Tucker Windham (1987, 1988, 1989, 1997). Whereas Windham’s repertoire also includes more traditional narratives (in the form of recordings of ghost stories and of Alabama folktales), most of her “recollections” have another form of coherence more akin to an “essay” as a written genre, organized around topics (Chevalier 1997). They may also represent a cultural reflex of a form of oral discourse in conversation which is named in Irish tradition (Lambert 1985), and culturally recognizable but unnamed within the American folk inventory. As such they would represent cultural influences from earlier immigration patterns in Alabama (McWhiney 1988, Fischer 1989, Montgomery 2001). This analysis explores how coherence is created within the “recollections,” examining both cognitive (Chafe 1980, 2001) and structural dimensions (Halliday & Hasan 1976, Tannen 1989), in an attempt to identify the prototype of a genre which in this case is highlighted by commodification. Moving from the identification of potential convention in the form of genre to the recognition of the particular, the analysis then takes up the question of the individual voice (Johnstone 1996, 1997, 2003), analyzing how Windham’s accent and dialect locate the discourse both within social and historical space and also in terms of “place” in Alabama. Finally, the paper links this genre to the socialization function of discourse (Heath 1983, Flynt 1993) through an exploration of “evaluation” (Labov 1972, Bamberg 1997). As a form of nostalgia (Frow 1997, Dika 2003, Davis 1979), the recollections fit within a Southern cultural orientation to the value of tradition (Wyatt-Brown 1982, Reed 1974) and as a commodified genre become available to a wider audience.


Bamberg, Michael. 1997. Positioning between Structure and Performance. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7(1-4), 335-342.
Brunvand, Jan Harold. 1978. The Study of American Folklore (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton.
Chafe, Wallace (Ed.). 1980. The Pear Stories: Cognitive, cultural, and linguistic aspects of narrative production. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
-------2001.”The Analysis of Discourse Flow ,” in D. Schiffrin, D. Tannen, and H. Hamilton (eds.), The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, 673-687. Oxford: Blackwell..
Chevalier, Tracy. (ed.) 1997. Encyclopedia of the Essay. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.
Davis, Fred. 1979. Yearning for yesterday: a sociology of nostalgia. New York: Free Press.
Dika, Vera. 2003. Recycled culture in contemporary art and film: the uses of nostalgia. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Dorson, Richard M. 1983. Handbook of American Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Fischer, David Hackett. 1989. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Flynt, Wayne. 1993. The Storytelling Tradition and Southern Literature. Paper presented at LAVIS II, Auburn University.
Frow, John. 1997. Time and commodity culture: essays in cultural theory and postmodernity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Halliday, M.A.K., and Ruqaiya Hasan. 1976. Cohesion in English. London: Longman.
Heath, Shirley Brice. 1983. Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Johnstone, Barbara. 1990. Stories, community, and place: Narratives from middle America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
-------1996: The Linguistic Individual: Self-expression in language and linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
-------1997. Social characteristics and self-expression in narrative. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7(1-4), 315-320.
-------2003. Features and uses of Southern style. In Stephen J. Nagle and Sara L. Sanders (eds.), English in the Southern United States, pp. 189-207.
Labov , William. 1972. The Transformation of Experience in Narrative Syntax. Language in the Inner City, 354-396. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
------- and Joshua Waletsky. 1967. Narrative Analysis: Oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helm (Ed.), Essays on the verbal and visual arts: Proceedings of the 1966 Annual Spring Meeting of the American Ethnological Society (pp. 12-44). Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Lambert, Kathleen Sheehan. 1985. The spoken web: An ethnography of storytelling in Rannafast, Ireland. Unpublished dissertation. Boston University.
McWhiney, Grady. 1988. Cracker culture: Celtic ways in the Old South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Montgomery, Michael. 2001. “British and Irish Antecedents,” in The Cambridge history of the English language, Vol VI, English in North America, John Algeo (ed.) 86-153. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Polanyi, Livia. 1985. Telling the American story: A structural and cultural analysis of conversational storytelling. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Norrick, Neal R. 2000. Conversational Narrative. Storytelling in Everyday Talk. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Reed, John Shelton. 1974. The enduring South: subcultural persistence in mass society. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Co.
Schiffrin, Deborah. 1981. Tense variation in Narrative. Language 57: 45-62.
Tannen, Deborah. 1989. Talking voices: Repetition, dialogue, and imagery in conversational discourse. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker (1987, 1988, 1989, 1997) Recollections. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Alabama Public Radio.
Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. 1982. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. New York: Oxford University Press.



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Session 10a: Saturday, April 17, 12:35-12:55, Ferguson Theater

Stylization, aging, and cultural competence: or, why health care in the South needs linguistics

Boyd Davis, Dena Shenk and Linda Moore
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Ruth Greene
Johnson C. Smith University

Stories told by older adults can help them hold on to their sense of self and to their sense of the cultural contexts that have shaped their lives. Shenk et al (2002) compare the role of place and the similarity of themes in life history narratives by two older rural Euro-American women. The first speaker independently reconstructs her life in terms of the rural values that shaped her, while the second speaker’s cognitive loss means that her story must be co-constructed. Themes of “closeness of family, hard work, ties to the land, and religious faith”(2002:1-2), and the ways they are presented, are similar, even though one has Alzheimer’s.
Our examples for this discussion are from the ongoing stylization in reminiscences by CEP and EW, two older African-American men from the Carolinas, one of whom is significantly impaired by dementia. We draw on their ways of narrative sequencing and information packaging to illustrate our call for the development and provision of training in multiple levels of language awareness, about discourse style and cross-cultural rhetoric in first or second language, regional or social variety.

Recent studies in communications disorders, such as Mahendra et al(1999) and Ulatowska (2000), incorporate cross-cultural aspects of language into clinical testing and training (cf Dijkstra et al, 2002; Barker and Giles i.p.). However, both research and training in health care communications need expansion in order to include a range of dialectal and stylistic features. For example, CEP uses repetition both for signifying on himself and styling, expecting his interlocutor to understand that he is “enacting or reconstituting culture” (Coupland 2001:369) by the ways he presents himself. CEP is double-voicing: his two-track stories call his interlocutor to affiliate with shared cultural identity (Hazen 2002). CEP presents a man who has both suffered deeply from racism and who has survived, successful on his own terms. He plays among the features he selects to showcase both his metaphorical and his real, if masked, ‘identity.’ Significantly impaired, EW can no longer be loquacious, but he can use the stylistic device of incremental phrasal repetition, to signal cultural features of identity and invite involvement. Understanding how CEP and EW use language could alter diagnosis and services.

Learning to recognize discourse components and features such as culturally-preferred ways of telling a story is part of cultural competence. Discussing the speech of Texas women, Johnstone comments that “sounding like a Westerner can mean telling stories a certain way”(1999:316). And it s not just stories: Kirkpatrick (1991) shows how a radio station consistently overlooked requests in (English) letters from Mandarin speakers because of placement of the request. Teacher-expectations for cultural styles can be triggered by the use of a topic-associating style of narrating (Taylor and Matsuda 1988; cf Rickford and McNair-Knox 1996).
New studies keyed to the 2000 Census, such as “Older Americans 2000,” analyze new patterns of immigration plus changing projections for increased lifespan and retirement in Southern states. We need to expand our analyses of language in the South to include medical education, in order to assure that health care workers for the aging can “tailor delivery to meet patients’ social, cultural, and linguistic needs”(Cultural Compendium 2003:6).


Barker, V. and H. Giles. In press. Integrating the communicative predicament and enhancement of aging models: the case of older Native Americans. To appear, Health Communication. Compendium of Cultural Competence Initiatives in Health Care. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Coupland, N. 2001. Dialect stylization in radio talk. Language in Society 30:345-75.
Dijkstra, K., M. Bourgeois, G. Petrie, L. Burgio and R. Allen-Burge, 2002. My recaller is on vacation: discourse analysis of nursing home residents with dementia. Discourse Processes 33:53-76.
Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. 2000. Older Americans 2000: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, Washington, DC U.S. Government Printing Office. August 2000.
Green, L. 2002. African American English: a linguistic introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Hazen, K. 2002. Identity and language variation in a rural community Language 78:240-57.
Johnstone, B. 1999. Lingual biography and linguistic variation. Language sciences 21:313-21.
Kirkpatrick, A. 1996. Information sequencing in Mandarin letters of request. Anthropological Linguistics 33:183-93.
Mahendra, N., K. Bayles, and C. Tomoeda. 1999. Effect of an unfamiliar accent on the repetition ability of normal elders and individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Medical Speech-Language Pathology 7:223-30.
Rickford, J. and F. McNair-Knox. 1997. Addressee and topic-influenced style shift: a quantitative sociolinguistic study. In D. Biber and E. Finegan, eds., Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Register. New York: Oxford University Press, 235-76
Ryan, E., S. Meredith, M. MacLean & J. B. Orange. 1995. Changing the way we talk with elders: promoting health using the Communication Enhancement Model. International Journal of Aging and Human Development 41:89-107.
Shenk, D., B. Davis, J. Peacock & L. Moore. 2002. Narratives and self-identity in later life: two rural American older women. Journal of Aging Studies 11:1-13.
Taylor, O. L. and Matsuda, M. 1988. Storytelling and Classroom Discrimination. In G. Smitherman-Donaldson and T.van Dijk, eds. Discourse and Discrimination. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Ulatowska, H., G. Olness, C. Hill, J. Roberts & M. Kepler. 2000. Repetition in narratives of African Americans: the effects of aphasia. Discourse Processes 30:265-83.
Wortham, S. 2001. Narratives in action: a strategy for research and analysis. NY: Teachers College Press.


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Session 1THR: Thursday, April 15, 9:55-10:15, Ferguson Theater

Francis Lieber's Americanisms as an Early Source on Southern Speech

Stuart Davis
Indiana University

In 1848 John Bartlett published his Dictionary of Americanisms. Partially as a response to Bartlett, Francis Lieber, a professor of history and political economy at South Carolina College (present day USC Columbia), compiled a work he entitled "Americanisms, Anglicisms, etc etc" between 1849-1851. This unpublished work located today in the Huntington Library (near Los Angeles) consists of ten small notebooks (each about 6" x 5") with about 820 entries on 385 pages. Entries in Lieber's Americanisms include words and expressions that Lieber considered new or whose usage he considered novel or unusual. Lieber was interested in local vocabulary and slang and in distinguishing Americanisms from Anglicisms. While Lieber's work has been briefly discussed by Heath (1982) and Andresen (1990), most of the specific entries have never been published. Lieber's entries are particularly valuable because of his linguistic sophistication. One of Lieber's mentors in Germany before coming to America was Wilhelm von Humboldt. In this talk, I focus on the local words and expressions in Lieber's Americanisms. These include southernisms, the college slang of South Carolina College where he taught, and entries regarding black speech. With respect to southernisms, Lieber, writing around 1850, gave several entries that predate what is found in DARE or OED. For example, he gave the following entry for doty. "Doty is a very common expression here about (Columbia S. C.) for spongey rottenness inside a tree, among common white people and negros." This term is listed in both DARE and OED with similar meaning but the earliest date cited is 1883. Lieber gives the following entry for frenching. "[I]t is common in Florida to say a field frenches cotton or corn etc when the plant first promises well but at a certain period becomes poor and dies owing to the soil." DARE provides similar meaning but with 1889 as the earliest date. Another interesting entry is Lieber's entry for stake-and-rider fence. He gives the following, "the name given here in S. Carolina (and perhaps everywhere further south) to the fence called in Virginia and further North worm-fences". Carver (1987) cites stake-and-rider fence as a feature exclusive to the Lower North. Lieber provides entries and explanations for other southernisms found in DARE such as givey (humid), honing (longing for) and cracker. Regarding local college slang, Lieber gives such lost terms as rat-fresh (a freshman who enters mid-term) and chawcastic (being sarcastic about someone). Concerning black speech, Lieber makes frequent references to characteristics he believes common among blacks. Most noteworthy is his detailed grammatical explanation of perfective DONE which he regards as a feature of black speech and notes the following: "The lower white persons have much adopted this done, which is an amplification and still further fixing of the idea of the past, the completion of an action." Thus, Lieber sees the perfective meaning of DONE among whites as an adaptation from black speech. Consequently, Lieber's "Americanisms" provides a unique source of southernisms in the antebellum period.



Andresen, Julie Tetel (1990) Linguistics in America 1769-1924: A Critical History, London: Routledge, pp. 114-119.
Carver, Craig (1987) American Regional Dialects: A Word Geography, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Heath, Shirley Brice (1982) "American English: Quest for a Model". In Braj Kachru (ed.) The Other Tongue: English across Cultures, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 237-249.

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Session 5FRI : Friday, April 16, 9:55-10:15, Ferguson Theater

The Persistence of Dialect Features

Sylvie Dubois
Louisiana State University

Barbara Horvath
University of Sydney

Language and social variation in Louisiana has a long and complex history. Any account of the present day varieties of English must begin with an historical overview of the ways in which language, ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic structure have been interwoven to form the intricate tapestry that is Louisiana. The focus of our paper is on the vernacular English currently spoken by Creole African Americans of French ancestry (CAAVE) and Cajuns (CVE) living in South Louisiana. The sub sample study taken out of two larger corpora consists of 24 African American male speakers and 16 Cajun male speakers. Language change and linguistic persistence characterize the black and white French-speaking populations. The most important change is the fall in the number of bilinguals. One aspect of persistence is the development of CAAVE and CVE dialects that distinguish THESE speakers from their fellow Southerners. Another one is the maintenance of these divergent dialects while others are disappearing elsewhere in Southern American English (Bailey 2001). The linguistic features of CAAVE and CVE reported on are (1) glide absence in the vowels (ai, au, oi, i, u, e, o), (2) S-absence in the third person singular. (3) ED-absence in bimorphemic words. When we compare the oldest speakers of both varieties phonological and morphological variables show no difference. The only reason to speak of two vernaculars is social. For the next generations, persistence of the dialect takes quite a different form. In CAAVE a high rate of glide absence is maintained across all generations. In CVE the middle-aged generation use this feature dramatically less but the younger generation increases its use so that their frequency approaches the proportion found in the speech of the older generation. We have called this process ‘recycling; we have reported this tendency for many other variables in CVE (Dubois and Horvath 1998, 1999, 2003). For morphological features, we notice the different rate of S- Absence and ED- Absence in CAAVE and CVE. However the maintenance of these features is stable among the generations of speakers who learned English first. Their rate also is similar to the younger speakers who learned French first. The striking difference between both dialects is the phonological conditioning. No conditioning can be observed in CAAVE whereas phonological constraints have a strong effect in CVE spoken by young speakers. Our results show that both older CAAVE and CVE speakers share the same linguistic environment, whether or not they learned French or English first. We argue against the fact that that the similarities between CAAVE and CVE as spoken by older speakers are a result of interference from French. We suggest that they speak comparable dialects because they learned English from people who spoke English in and around their communities, not only as adults but as children as well, and that these English speakers had all these features in their speech. We will also show that linguistic persistence in CAAVE has more to do with the patterns of social intercourse whereas persistence in CVE is better explained by the social changes that took place throughout the 20th century.


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Session 7bFRI : Friday, April 16, 2:25-2:45, Ferguson Forum

Whither Cajun French: Language persistence and dialectal upsurges

Sylvie Dubois
Louisiana State University

This paper reports the various sources of linguistic variation in Cajun French, particularly the intergenerational and geographical usage of dialectal forms. We observe the variable usage of long-standing features that coincide with the academic model (il avait [av], encore [kr], aller chez ma mère, ils parlent, il est mort) and others local norms that were frequently used in France during the 18th and 19th centuries and are still used today in several vernacular varieties of French (il avait [ave], encore [kor], aller sur ma mère, ils parlont, il a mouri). (Dubois 2002, Dubois, King and Nadasdi 2003, Noetzel and Dubois 2003) Thus, investigating the evolution of usage patterns in Cajun French requires a systematic and empirical comparison between well-established usages within the Cajun community and the vernacular features in use within the francophone Diaspora in North America, rather than focusing upon the academic variety which plays no functional role in Louisiana.

Our corpus of Cajun French includes 135 speakers from five generations, representing almost a century of Cajun French: the monolingual ancestors (1890-1901); the French-dominant community elders (1905-1915); the seniors (1920-1933), the middle-aged (1935-1951) and young speakers (1957-1977). One striking result is the maintenance of dialectal features across all generations of Cajun speakers, a finding at odds with the linguistic changes that have taken place in Cajun English (Dubois and Horvath 1999, 2003). There were massive sociocultural changes within the Cajun community throughout the 20th century. One linguistic response was the evanescence of bilingualism and the ontogenesis of a dialect of English. The persistence of dialectal features in Cajun French and the linguistic changes in Cajun English suggest that there was little change in the patterns of social intercourse in French while there was robust change emanating from the English discourse interactions. When speaking French, Cajuns are not confronted in their everyday life by someone who does not speak the same dialect, who misunderstands them, or who socially evaluates the way they speak. By contrast, accommodation to hearers is needed in English and there is a marked social motivation for change. There are more English-speaking people than French-speaking people who do not talk like Cajuns.
However, the Cajun French community was not an enclave in the 18th and 19th centuries, patterns of social intercourse in French were in flux. In order to determine the evolution of dialectal features in Cajun French, one has to confront important questions about four issues:1) the state of the French language in France during the colonization period; 2) the variety of French spoken in Acadia before the exile; 3) the fate of different French dialects in Louisiana during the 19th century; and 4) the specific constraints in effect within each Cajun community that influence the development of local varieties.


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Session 10a: Saturday, April 17, 11:45-12:05, Ferguson Theater

Voice Identification and Authorship Attribution Issues in the American South

Bethany Dumas
University of Tennessee

Southern speech patterns and perceptions of southern speech patterns play an important role in social relations. Recent documentation can be found in such works as Soukup 2000 and Hazen 2002 and also in much fiction and many films. Southern speech patterns and perceptions of southern speech patterns also play an important role in judicial process. Facts or perceptions about southern speech play a role in many legal cases, both before and during trial. In some cases, linguists are involved as consultants and/or expert witnesses (Shuy 1996, Shuy 1998). Examples of case types include those involving voice identification (Ash 1988, Labov 1988, Dumas 1990), authorship attribution (Foster 2000,) accuracy of the transcript of an audio recording, lexical interpretation, and grammatical patterns (Labov 1988, Shuy 1996, Dumas 2000). In this paper, I shall present brief descriptions of the use of linguistic analysis in a series of court cases involving voice identification and authorship attribution. I shall also summarize ways in which linguistic analysis has been used or can be used in other types of cases.

In one criminal case a defendant accused of felonious selling of cocaine to an undercover agent on the basis of surreptitiously made audio recordings of unambiguous transactions denied being the person speaking on the tape. In another criminal case, a linguist was asked by counsel for the defendant to compare videotape samples of his voice with audio recordings of telephone calls ostensibly made by someone else. Defendant, as he eventually confessed, had faked his own death by murdering a friend (by setting his automobile on fire). He then telephoned family members, pretending to be a lawyer representing the “dead” defendant. Counsel for the defendant was certain that his client was guilty, and he was seeking a guilty plea so that his client would receive a life sentence rather than the death penalty. A family member recognized the defendant’s voice and alerted police. (Dumas 1990).

In a third case a linguist provided an analysis in a murder case in which the linguistic issue involved the authorship of a putative flight note in which the putative author announced her planned departure with a lover. It was reported to have been written by a woman who otherwise appeared to have been a murder victim (the body has never been found). All evidence, including the putative flight note, suggested that a jealous husband wrote the note and murdered his wife. The linguistic analysis involved comparison of a handwritten note known to have been written by the woman, and a brief typed note (the flight note). The accused husband eventually confessed to having killed the woman.


Dumas, Bethany K. 1990. Voice Identification in a Criminal Law Context. American Speech 65.4:341–348.
Dumas, Bethany K. 2000. Dialect Variation and Legal Process. American Speech 75.3: 267-270.
Hazen, Kirk. 2002. Identity and Language Variation in a Rural Community. Language 78.3:240-257.
Shuy, Roger W. 1993. Language Crimes: The Use and Abuse of Language Evidence in the Courtroom. Oxford, UK; Cambridge, USA, Blackwell.
Shuy, Roger W. 1998. The Language of Confession, Interrogation, and Deception. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Soukup, Barbara. 2000. ‘Y’all come back now, y’hear!?’: Language attitudes in the United States towards Southern American English.” MA thesis, University of Vienna, May.


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Session 2bTHR: Thursday, April 15, 11:45-12:05, Ferguson Forum

From French to English in Louisiana: the Prudhomme family’s story

Connie C. Eble
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

When the United States purchased Louisiana from Napoleon in 1803, the dominant language was French. With Americanization came the English language. By the time of the Civil War, English had largely displaced French in public discourse in most of the state and in the city of New Orleans. Only in the relatively isolated Acadian area of southern Louisiana did French have dominance over English.
This paper examines the shift from French to English in the area of earliest French settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory, around the town of Natchitoches in northwestern Louisiana. It is based on the family papers preserved by the descendants of the merchant Jean Pierre Philippe Prudhomme, who came to the Natchitoches area in 1716. The Prudhomme family became prosperous planters. In 1821 they moved into a house on the banks of the Red River where subsequent generations lived until the 1990s. The house and some of the land are now owned by the National Park Service as part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park.
The Prudhomme family papers (about 16,375 items), dating 1765-1997, occupy 41 linear feet in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They include plantation journals and accounts, slave records, legal papers, files of the plantation physician, and a wide range of items related to the social and non-business interests of the Prudhommes, such as school lessons, greeting cards, invitations, recipes and remedies, and letters.
This paper will focus on the19th century, noting the types of writing and the chronology of the shift in language. It will also examine texts for kinds and amounts of code switching. The 30 letters from one teenager to her cousin a few miles away, written in the late 1850s, for example, are almost all entirely in English, a few sentences in French appearing in two or three. Around the same time, a mother in the family writes to her son, “mon cher fils,” in French.
The language history of this one family gives a fuller picture of the historical and contemporary variety of language in the American South.


Prudhomme Family Papers (#613), Manuscripts Department, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/

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Session 2THR: Thursday, April 15, 12:35-12:55,Ferguson Theater

Vowel Merger as a Snapshot of The History of Southern American English: Conditioned Mergers Before /r/

Brooke Ehrhardt
University of North Texas

In a comprehensive overview of linguistic change, William Labov (1994) identifies merger as one of three major types of phonological change (the others being splits and chain shifting). Labov notes that mergers are among the most common type of sound change and goes on to identify two types: conditioned mergers, or those that occur in a singular phonological environment; and unconditional mergers, or those that occur everywhere they can occur. Although linguists studying Southern American English (SAE) often focus on chain shifting (i.e., the “Southern Shift”), conditioned mergers are also quite common in SAE. For instance, the mergers of /I/ and /E/ before nasals, of /ju/ and /u/ after alveolars, and of initial /ju/ and /u/ have all been robust processes in SAE over the last century. One set of conditioned mergers that have also been robust, but that have not been fully analyzed, are conditioned mergers before /r/.
This paper explores one set of conditioned mergers before /r/: the merger of /er/, /Er/, and / r/, which leads to the homophony of the sets Mary/merry/marry, and the merger of / r/ and /or/, which leads to the homophony of horse/hoarse. It does so by examining the mergers in two sources of data, the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States (LAGS) and the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS). Taken together, these two sources provide apparent time data on more than a century of Southern speech, and they also allow for the tracing of the mergers from inception to completion. Using these sources, this paper maps out a history of the two vowel mergers before /r/ in SAE and examines the social factors that served as amplifiers and barriers to their spread. The apparent time distributions of the mergers suggest that their diffusion was probably a consequence of the dialect contact that resulted from widespread urbanization after 1880. In this respect, the mergers form a kind of snapshot of the history of SAE.


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