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 5FRI : Friday, April 16, 9:30-9:50, Ferguson Theater

The South Solidifying but Receding

William Labov
University of Pennsylvania

The Atlas of North American English [ANAE] defines the South in terms of two intersecting chain shifts: the Southern Shift, which is triggered by the glide deletion of /ay/, and the Back Upglide Shift, which involves the development of a back upglide in the long open o class, /oh/. The isogloss for glide deletion of /ay/ before obstruents has the widest expansion and the greatest consistency, as well as the most profound effect upon the vowel system as a whole. Both chain shifts have their greatest development in the sub-region of the Inland South, centering upon Asheville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Birmingham, but extend throughout the Southern States, and both show great geographic coherence in the ANAE records.

Nevertheless, the Southern chain shifts appear to be slowly receding in apparent time, and contrast sharply with the Northern Cities Shift and Canadian shift in this respect. Furthermore, the Southern chain shifts are negatively correlated with city size, as opposed to the Northern pattern. In the South, strong advances in apparent time are found for those linguistic changes that are shared by the Southeastern super-region, including the Midland, Charleston and Florida. This is generally true for the fronting of the nuclei of the back upgliding vowels, where the South follows behind the leading Midland areas. However, those features that are specific to the South, like fronting before laterals, are receding among younger speakers.

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Session 10b: Saturday, April 17, 11:20-11:40, Ferguson Forum

Why We'll Never Get the Black Grammy Awards

Sonja L. Lanehart
University of Georgia

Over the last several decades, linguists and other scholars have given various names to the language used in the African American community: "African American English," "Black English Vernacular," "Negro Nonstandard English," "Black English," "African American Language," "African American Vernacular English," Black Vernacular English," etc. There are so many names. The idea is that Whatever the name that is chosen, the variety is homogeneous because the people are homogeneous wherever they live, wherever they are from, wherever they have been, whatever they have seen, whoever they know, whatever they know, whoever they are, whatever they want to be. There is also the notion that what is spoken in the Americas and throughout the African Diaspora is connected in such a way that it too has been given a name: "Ebonics." Ebonics is the essence of a Mother language that is shared by a people with a common sociohistory, a common pain, a common spirit, a common song.

Despite this seeming harmony that is sung by those known as the Creolists, there is a disharmonious chord sung by those known as the (Neo-)Anglicists. (Neo-)Anglicists believe there is little for Blacks that beckons back to Mother Africa; there is nothing they can hear across the Middle Passage that sounds familiar enough or that they can recognize that makes them even long for a land that surely birthed their forefathers and foremothers. There is a song titled "My Soul Looks Back and Wonders" and a saying "They done taken my blues and gone" that seem so relevant. Is the latter true for these latter-day Africans in the United States? Is there really a song they sing that linguists currently call African American (Vernacular) English or is there even what some scholars call Ebonics in the African Diaspora? Is there language in the Americas that really harkens back to Mother Africa that Africans today recognize and accept and embrace such that all Blacks can sing in harmony? Is such really possible?

We have been told that until recently, Blacks comprised the largest minority in the United States. As such, many businesses have catered to Blacks to get their money. Advertising campaigns today are very much geared to Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop is a world phenomenon. Music is a big part of that culture. However, with the growth of the Latino community came the Latin Grammy Awards and it is aired around the world. Will there ever be a Black Grammy Awards for the long music history of Blacks and its world-wide impact? There is a connection between this question and the language (history) of Blacks I believe.

This paper explores language and identity and what it means to be Black-not only in the United States, but also in the African Diaspora-and the connection, or lack thereof, of Blackness in the African Diaspora. It will also explore the existence of what sociolinguists call African American (Vernacular) English and its place in a community and for the individual.

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Session 11b: Saturday, April 17, 2:25-2:45, Ferguson Forum

Hispanic language use, language acquisition, and social integration in NE Mississippi

Patricia M. Lestrade
Mississippi State University

Over the past ten years there has been a noticeable increase in the Hispanic population of towns in NE Mississippi. Spanish-speakers are found working in construction and agriculture in small towns throughout the area. Paralleling early economic Hispanic immigration in the Southwest, these newcomers face difficulties of socialization and acculturation. This study examines the demographics of the Tupelo Hispanic population as it relates to language use, language acquisition, and social integration.

Tupelo, with a population of 34,200, is the largest city in NE Mississippi. According to the 2000 census, the population of Hispanics in the area is just over 800. Local churches and the Hispanics interviewed, however, contend that the census grossly underestimates the local Hispanic population. If this is true, the conservative count likely indicates very recent entry as well as fear of authority.
Spanish is the home language of the Hispanics in this study. Although there is some networking among them, there seems to be limited contact outside the family unit.

Those who attend local churches develop a network of acquaintances, albeit mostly Hispanic, but few churches can provide Spanish services that would attract continued attendance. The organization that appears most successful in uniting the Hispanics is the locally-organized soccer league of approximately two dozen teams.

Language difference continues to be the greatest hindrance to social integration. To its credit, the Mississippi community has supported Spanish language programs in the primary and secondary schools. In addition, the free Spanish classes offered by a nearby community college and some of the churches are well-attended and successful. This shows an interest on the part of the English-speaking community to learn a foreign language.

Still, there is a large language gap between the Hispanics and Mississippi natives. Newly-arrived Hispanics, who most often speak no English, find themselves outside the system. While the need to learn English is obvious to the new immigrant, free English classes are usually poorly attended. In this presentation, we will examine in detail the disconnect between the need for training in English and the rejection of opportunities, caused in part by cultural attitudes and differences in level of education. Finally, we will discuss the methods used by Hispanics to communicate and to learn English.

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Plenary: Friday, April 16, 8:30-9:20, Ferguson Theater

Is “Spanglish” the Third Language of the South?: Truth and Fantasy about U. S. Spanish

John M. Lipski
The Pennsylvania State University

Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language of the United States, and the southern United States are experiencing the proportionally most rapid growth of the nation’s Spanish-speaking population. Beyond the usual bastions of south Florida, Texas, and historically isolated enclaves in Louisiana, Spanish-English linguistic encounters have given rise to a range of contact phenomena often derided by non-specialists as “Spanglish” but in reality representing the emergence of innovative Spanish dialects. Belief in the existence of a hybrid “Spanglish” which is neither Spanish nor English is widespread among both native and non-native speakers of Spanish in the United States and abroad, but there is no consensus as to the nature of this purported contact language. In most cases the word “Spanglish” and the related connotations of linguistic hybridity qua illegitimate birth are used to denigrate the linguistic abilities of Hispanic speakers born or raised in the United States. The present study traces the origin and development of the “Spanglish” image and describes the many distinct phenomena that this term has included. These observations are then compared with empirical studies on U. S. Spanish—from Florida to Texas—including the behavior of subject pronouns, verbal tense and mood, noun-adjective concordance, syntactic calques, and lexical neologisms. The resulting data contrast sharply with claims of a hybrid language; emerging instead are nuanced regional varieties of Spanish that exhibit the same range of features as in earlier contact situations. The study concludes with an injunction against unrealistic portrayals of language contact in the United States, whose only lasting legacy has been the continued marginalization of Americans who speak languages other than English—in its most standardized and prestigious varieties.

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Session 10b: Saturday, April 17, 12:10-12:30, Ferguson Forum

African American Women’s Language in the Smoky Mountains of Appalachia

Christine Mallinson
North Carolina State University

Becky Childs
University of Georgia

Descriptions of African American women’s language within variationist sociolinguistics and discourse analysis emphasize both the complex, dynamic nature of language use and the need to conduct locally situated ethnographic studies in order to examine diverse linguistic practices. Accordingly, this paper presents a study of variation in the speech of women residents of Texana, North Carolina, a community of 153 African Americans situated in the Great Smoky Mountain region of Appalachia. The general picture of the linguistic behavior of the Texana community shows that most residents accommodate their language to the norms of the surrounding White Appalachian community (Childs and Mallinson 2003, Mallinson and Childs 2002), while at the same time they also maintain levels of linguistic variables traditionally associated with African American speech. But although the community seems to indicate some general dialect patterning, we find extensive sub-group variation within the group of women residents – particularly if we consider linguistic differences among women who share similar demographic profiles yet differ strikingly in terms of social relations and social practices.

Using data collected from a series of sociolinguistic interviews from May 2002 to February 2003, we analyze several diagnostic sociolinguistic variables (e.g., rhoticity, consonant cluster reduction, prevoiceless /ai/ ungliding, 3rd sg. –s absence, copula absence, and habitual be), acoustic vowel data, and specific lexical items, to investigate variation in different women residents’ levels of typical African American English and/or Appalachian English features. On first glance, our analysis points to strong intergenerational effects, but we also argue that community of practice (Eckert 2000; Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 1998; Meyerhoff 2002) is a significant variable outweighing traditional demographic variables such as social status and age in an analysis of these women’s sociolinguistic variation. As such, we explore how local context and modes of group participation must be considered to account for the social embeddedness of particular language varieties in explanations for the heterogeneous and variable linguistic development that can occur within a particular speech community. We thus conclude that the community of practice construct provides a basis for investigating the mutual construction of individual and community identity along with other social variables, within the broad-based demographic category of African American women’s speech.


Childs, Becky, and Christine Mallinson. 2003. “The Regional Alignment of African American English in the Smoky Mountains.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Dialect Society: Atlanta, GA.
Eckert, Penelope. 2000. Linguistic Variation as Social Practice. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Eckert, Penelope and Sally McConnell-Ginet. 1998. “Communities of Practice: Where Language, Gender, and Power All Live.” Pp. 484-494 in Language and Gender: A Reader, edited by Jennifer Coates. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Mallinson, Christine, and Becky Childs. 2002. “African American English in Appalachia: Dialect Accommodation and Substrate Influence.” Paper presented at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference: Baltimore, MD.
Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2002. “Communities of Practice.” Pp. 526-548 in The Handbook of Language Variation and Change, edited by J.K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill, and Natalie Schilling-Estes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


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Session 7aFRI : Friday, April 16, 2:50-3:30, Ferguson Theater

Recovering Alabama's Native Literature

Jack B. Martin
College of William and Mary


Margaret McKane Mauldin
Muskogee Creek
University of Oklahoma

The native literature of the American South covers a period of almost four hundred years, from Francisco Pareja's 1612 Cathecismo in Timucua and Spanish to descriptions of Vietnam war experiences. It covers the Muskogean languages Choctaw, Chickasaw, Alabama, Koasati, Apalachee, Hitchiti, Mikasuki, and Creek, the southeastern representatives of the Siouan-Catawba, Iroquoian, and Caddoan families, and the language isolates Atakapa, Chitimacha, Natchez, Timucua, Tunica, and Yuchi. Very little of this literature is accessible to non-specialists, however: much of the oral literature has not been transcribed, and what is transcribed is often not published.

This paper describes our attempts to edit and translate materials in the Creek (Muskogee) language of eastern Oklahoma (formerly of Alabama and Georgia). Our work so far has involved three major collections: a) the traditional folktales of Earnest Gouge; b) the texts of Mary R. Haas; and, c) social documents of the Creek Nation. We will describe the first two here.

The Gouge stories were written in Creek for John Swanton in 1915. The manuscript contains 29 stories involving trickster rabbit, giant lizards, transformations of men into snakes, foxes, and deer, and competitions between animals. In editing and translating the manuscript, we hoped to reach several audiences: Gouge's grandchildren and the 67,000 members of the Creek and Seminole nations of Oklahoma; and, academics who might wish to understand the structure of Creek. Since the needs of these groups differ, we decided to publish in three forms: a) in book form with side-by-side Creek and English translations; b) through a website at http://www.wm.edu/linguistics/creek/gouge/ (for phonemic transcriptions and other technical materials); and, c) on DVD (for sound recordings).

The second project we will discuss is our current project editing and translating the Creek texts of Mary R. Haas, collected between 1936 and about 1941. In all, there are 22 volumes of texts and grammatical notes. Many of the materials appear to have been written first in Creek by native speakers and then reelicited through dictation and written phonemically. The texts cover some of the same types of stories found in the Gouge manuscript, but also describe specific ballgames, speeches, clans, traditional customs, autobiography, and politics. For this project, we have decided to publish interlinear versions of the texts for an academic audience, in keeping with Haas's other published texts.

In order to show the steps involved, we will show images of documents and examples of our finished work. Margaret Mauldin (Muskogee Creek) will read from selected works and discuss the importance of the materials for Creeks.

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Session 6bFRI : Friday, April 16, 12:35-12:55, Ferguson Forum

Mill Villagers and Farmers: Linguistic Contact in a Georgia Textile Mill Town

Lisa McNair
Georgia Institute of Technology

This sociolinguistic investigation examines dialect change in Griffin, Georgia, a textile mill town about 40 miles south of Atlanta. Based on original fieldwork with 36 subjects, this study records dialect variation, tracks change through apparent time, and measures social network ties of each individual speaker. Two groups—the founder population of farmers and the later community of mill workers—are described as speech communities whose oppositional linguistic and social identities center around the socioeconomic institutions of the patriarchal textile mills and the pervasive cotton market. Drawing both from established research which verifies diversity in early American Englishes in the South, and from this new collection of data, I demonstrate that generational dialect changes are attributable to shifts in socioeconomic structure.

As agriculture waned throughout the 20th century, textile mills dominated the economic landscape of Griffin, and contact between these once-separate communities increased, dramatically restructuring the local linguistic ecology. The linguistic contact equations of different Southern regions varied due to diverse origins of speakers, migration routes, settlement patterns and population ratios.
Analogizing from evolution theory, I describe the contact ecology in Griffin as a pool of competing linguistic features available to speakers for a selection process. A quantitative analysis of six phonological features shows that older speakers align oppositionally by occupational categories; in contrast, the contact patterns of middle age and younger groups cause a restructuring of the available pool of linguistic features. A quantitative analysis of six grammatical features examines influences such as settlement patterns, salience, and indexical significance, as well as phonetic simplicity, semantic bleaching and grammaticalization.

Finally, I critique the notion of linguistic “prestige” and instead propose that the changing structure of social network ties determines the routes of linguistic negotiation. The weak-tie innovators in Griffin were the children of farmers who had contact with the children of mill workers. Negotiating dialects as linguistic capital, these select pioneers interacted in a newly consolidated high school and thereby settled a perceptual frontier through friendships, common workplaces and marriages.


Bailey, Guy. 1997. When did Southern American English begin? Varieties of Englishes Around the World, ed. by Edgar Schneider. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 255-275.
Bailey, Guy, Tom Wikle, Jan Tillery, and Lori Sand. 1994. The linguistic consequences of catastrophic events: An example from the American Southwest. NWAV23: Sociolinguistic Variation: Data, Theory, and Analysis, ed. by J. Arnold, et al., 435-451.
Kurath, Hans. 1940. Dialect areas, settlement areas, and culture areas in the United States. The Cultural Approach to History, edited by Caroline F. Ware, 331-335. New York: Columbia UP.
Labov, William, and Sharon Ash. 1997. Understanding Birmingham. Language Variety in the South Revisited, ed. by Cynthia Bernstein, et al., 508-573. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
McDavid, Raven. 1980 [1966]. Dialect differences and social differences in an urban society. Varieties of American English, ed. by Anwar S. Dil. 34-50.
Milroy, Lesley. 1987a [1980]. Language and Social Networks. 2nd ed. London: Blackwell.
Mufwene, Salikoko. 2001. The Ecology of Language Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.


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Session 11a: Saturday, April 17, 3:15-3:35, Ferguson Theater

Performing Southernness: Dialectal Representations and Southern Linguistic Identity

Lisa Cohen Minnick
Georgia Institute of Technology

From local color literature to Gone with the Wind to closed captioning of television programs, third-person representations of dialectal speech have had enormous impact on the ways Southern identity is perceived both within and outside the South. This paper analyzes the influence of public portrayals and performances of dialect on popular perceptions of Southern identity. Contextualized within the Renaissance tradition of using literary dialect as an enforcer of linguistic norms and advocate of standardization, the paper argues that dialectal representations have persisted in those norming capacities into the twenty-first century, with evidence focusing specifically on the images of black and white Southerners as constructed by way of representations of speech. The paper analyzes the effects and self-perpetuating nature of the norming function with attention to perceptions and attitudes about non-standard, especially Southern, speech and its speakers. Also considered is the relationship between dialectal representations and beliefs about what constitutes Southernness, along with analysis of how and why dialectal speech is represented in the ways it is.

Sources of dialectal representations to discussed include American literature from the local colorists, Southwest humorists, and writers of the plantation tradition, to the attempts at authenticity by Realist and Naturalist writers, Modernist experimentation, and Harlem Renaissance reclamation. Non-literary sources emphasize popular and public portrayals of dialect, including minstrelsy and vaudeville. Finally, the role of mass media technologies in defining black and white linguistic Southernness in film and television is considered, with attention to how Southern speech is represented in scripted programming as well as how unscripted regionally and ethnically identified speech is represented in closed-captioned television interviews.

(Keywords: African American English, Southern White Vernacular English language perceptions, language and media, literary dialect.)

Selected References

Bernstein, C.G., ed. (1994). The Text and Beyond: Essays in Literary Linguistics. Tuscaloosa, AL: UP of Alabama.
Blank, P. (1996). Broken English: Dialects and the Politics of Language in Renaissance Writings. New York: Routledge.
Jones, G. (1999). Strange Talk: The Politics of Dialect Literature in Gilded Age America. Berkeley, CA: UP of California.
Minnick, L. C. and S. Tamasi. (2003). “From March Madness to Talladega: Closed Captioning Strategies for Interviews with College Basketball Players and NASCAR Drivers.” Unpublished paper.
North, M. (1994). The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language, and Twentieth?Century Literature. New York: Oxford UP.
Page, N. (1988). Speech in the English Novel. 2nd ed. Houndmills, Eng: Macmillan.
Preston, D. R. (1993). “Folk Dialectology.” In Preston (ed.), American Dialect Research. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 333-378.
Preston, D. R. (1985). “The Li'l Abner Syndrome: Written Representations of Speech.” American Speech 60:4. 328?336.
Rickford, J. R. and R. J. Rickford (2000). Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. New York: Wiley.

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Plenary: Thursday, April 15, 8:30-9:20 a.m. in Ferguson Theater

The Crucial Century for English in the American South

Michael Montgomery
University of South Carolina

The period between the mid-18th century and the Civil War is crucial for understanding the development of Southern American English (SAE) and much of its present-day diversity. During these years English expanded rapidly from the Atlantic littoral, as settlement and indigenous groups met and mixed, and situations of language and dialect contact produced a linguistic landscape in many ways similar to the one observable today. New dialects were formed, and SAE became a distinct perceived variety by the eve of the Civil War.

After synopsizing major demographic shifts in the region, this paper presents five case studies, using period documents to delineate contact situations and linguistic patterns revealing SAE in its developmental stages:

1) letters from Indian traders in interior South Carolina (1740s-70s).
2) letters from African-American born in Low country South Carolina (1790s).
3) a testimony from an elderly woman in coastal South Carolina (1850).
4) letters from white plantation overseers in North Carolina and Mississippi (1820s-50s).
5) usage strictures in Confederate schoolbooks (1860s). Such documents provide insights on linguistic patterns and forms of the day. They enable us to detect the early formation of SAE and, while interesting in themselves, give us the raw material for testing principles of new dialect formation. They also help us better understand the larger ecology of American English -- in short to address the question "When did Southern English begin?"

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Plenary: Friday, April 16, 5:40-6:30, Ferguson Theater

Race, Racialism, and the Study of Language Evolution in America


Salikoko S. Mufwene
University of Chicago

Students of 'race' remain divided over the foundation of this notion. On the one hand, biologists such as Richard Lewontin, Steven Jay Gould, and Jared Diamond, as well as anthropologist Jonathan Marks, among other distinguished scholars, dispute the genetic basis of the concept, arguing that it is a social construct. On the other, anthropologist Vincent Sarich and Psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, among others, argue that, as small as the percentage of genes determining racial variation may be, it is important nonetheless. This small proportion of genes would be as significant as, if not more than, the small percentage of genes distinguishing mankind from chimpanzees. It would not be the number or proportion that matters but rather the impact that they have on human behavior, which would provide the basis for classifying humans into various categories identified as "races."

However, the social history of North America also suggests that what was identified yesterday as race is sometimes designated today as ethnicity. Regardless of all this confusion or uncertainty, the social sciences and linguistics have used some social notion of 'race' to account for language variation and language evolution. The question is: How operational and informative has the notion been? This paper is an assessment of some of the race-based accounts of language acquisition, language variation, and language evolution in linguistics. Statements such as the following stand out: 1) what particular language variety a person speaks has nothing to do with his/her race; 2) creoles in the New World and Indian Ocean developed in part because the enslaved Africans were segregated from the Europeans and no longer had access to the latter’s languages (the so-called lexifiers); 3) the northern city vowel shift has affected only White Americans. This discussion is an invitation to recalibrate our explanations with the sociohistorical ecologies of language acquisition, language evolution, and language variation in North America (and in the Caribbean).


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Plenary: Saturday, April 17, 8:30-9:20, Ferguson Theater

American Indian Languages of the Southeast: An Introduction

Pam Munro

Among the unsung heroes of World War I are a group of Code Talkers who helped the American Expeditionary Force to win several battles in the Mousse-Argonne campaign by telephoning military information in Choctaw (Choctaw Nation 2003), an American Indian language originally spoken in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

We know few details of these conversations. The Code Talkers must surely have mystified their German listeners in part because of their language's unfamiliar vocabulary and sound system. But undoubtedly the grammatical organization of what they said – so different from familiar European languages that speakers routinely describe it as "backwards" – also was part of the code.
The Muskogean family of languages, which includes Choctaw (one of the "Five Civilized Tribes" of Oklahoma, most of whose speakers were removed from their original homelands during the 1830s), predominated geographically in the aboriginal Southeast. Many other languages of the region share extensive typological traits with Muskogean: they have subject-object-verb word order, they are basically "postpositional" (or at least non-prepositional), genitives precede possessed nouns, and adjectives follow the nouns they modify. All Southeastern languages exhibit complex morphology, especially on verbs (the majority would be classed as polysynthetic), and there is widespread use of active-stative agreement marking. Thus, although there is some variation, this Muskogean type of language might be considered more generally a Southeastern type, not only very different from English but rather unusual cross-linguistically.
In this talk I will present an overview of the American Indian languages of the Southeast (Swanton 1946, Crawford 1975, Hardy and Scancarelli in press) and a brief introduction to some features of their linguistic structure. In addition to one complete family (Muskogean), the languages of the region included representatives of four other language families (Algonquian, Caddoan, Iroquoian, and Siouan) and a number of language isolates without close relatives.

These languages have contributed considerably to Southeastern linguistic patterns, most obviously as the source of many placenames that are still in use. Many of the Southeastern languages are known to us now only through earlier written or, more rarely, audio recordings. All those that are still spoken are seriously endangered (they are losing speakers much faster than they are gaining them). Their potential loss is an important humanistic, cultural, and intellectual concern, because languages reflect much of their speakers' culture and experience, because of the importance of data from little known languages for scholars from many fields, and because even the most obscure language may provide important insights into cognitive function. The indigenous languages of the Southeast are a valuable — and critically threatened — part of Southern heritage.


Crawford, James M. 1975. Studies in Southeastern Indian Languages. University of Georgia Press.
Hardy, Heather K., and Janine Scancarelli, eds. In Press. Native Languages of the Southeastern United States. University of Nebraska Press.
Swanton, John R. 1946. The Indians of the Southeastern United States. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 137.
Choctaw Nation. Accessed 18 August 2003. http://www.choctawnation.com/content.php? mmi=4&smi1=17&page=80

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Session 8aFRI : Friday, April 16, 4:15-4:35, Ferguson Theater

Aggregate variation in the South in LAMSAS

John Nerbonne
University of Groningen

Summary: We use data from The Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS) (Kretzschmar 1994), focusing on the Southern states to provide a characterization of aggregate linguistic variation in the South.

Traditional regional dialect divisions have been based on linguists' selection of a small number of features which are each realized differently in the same various subregions under investigation, and the work of modern variationists has likewise restricted its attention to a small number of features. In the hands of masters this methodology has led to insightful characterizations of the dialect landscape. But the methodology has resisted analytical justification in several points: first, the choice of which features to focus on is not determined theoretically, but only with an eye to the area to be classified; second, every division results in exceptional data, for which no satisfactory treament has been suggested; and third, some groups of linguistic features delineate regions of imperfect overlap, inevitably giving rise to so-called "transitional zones", which suggest that exact overlap of discrete features is a pure foundation for dialect geography.

We use data from the admirably accessible internet archive of The Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS) consists of 1162 interviews conducted over a period of thirty years. We focus here on the phonetic variation in LAMSAS, in which 151 pronunciations were elicited, and especially on pronunciations in the Southern part in LAMSAS (Virginia and further south).
We seek solutions to the analytical problems noted above through dialectometry, the measure of linguistic differences pioneered especially by Goebl (1984). Following Goebl, we analyze lexical differences at a nominal data level (see Nerbonne and Kleiweg, 2003), and extending Goebl's methods, we measure pronunciation difference not via differences in individual features, but rather via a measure of string distance (Nerbonne et al. 1999). The dialectometric view solves the problems noted above by using a fixed measure of difference and weighing all the evidence available in the dialect atlas, including counterindicating and exceptional data. The key step in dialectometry is from the measurement of individual linguistic variables (the pronunciation of the diphthong /aI/ the lexicalization of the concept 'dragonfly') to the measurement of aggregate differences of varieties. In this dialectometry distinguishes itself from traditional dialectology but also the mainstream in contemporary variationist linguistics.

Besides solving the analytical problems of traditional dialectology, the dialectometric view offers new opportunities for mapping variation, and for addressing questions such as the determinants of variation. We illustrate these in the talk. We also note that dialectometry imposes conditions on data that are difficult to meet. In particular we need comparable data, which requires consistency in data collection techniques. The level of consistency is difficult for a single field worker to maintain, and the LAMSAS materials from South Carolina and Georgia were collected by eight different fieldworkers, who clearly varied in their elicitation techniques. This combination makes the LAMSAS South a difficult target. The talk will sketch a strategy for dealing with such differences that is very much the subject of ongoing work.


Goebl, Hans. Dialektometrische Studien: Anhand italoromanischer, rätoromanischerund galloromanischer Sprachmaterialien aus AIS und ALF. 3 Vol. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1984.
Kretzschmar, William A. (ed.) Handbook of the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 1994.
Nerbonne, John, Wilbert Heeringa, and Peter Kleiweg. Edit Distance and Dialect Proximity. In David Sankoff and Joseph Kruskal (eds.) Time Warps, String Edits and Macromolecules: The Theory and Practice of Sequence Comparison, 2nd ed., Stanford: CSLI. v-xv. 1999.
Nerbonne, John and Peter Kleiweg, Lexical Variation in LAMSAS, Computers and the Humanities 37(4). Special Issue on Computational Methods in Dialectometry edited by John Nerbonne and William A. Kretzschmar. 2003.


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Session 9 : Saturday, April 17, 9:55-10:15, Ferguson Theater

Register and Codeswitching in the South: Linguistic Notions for K-12 students

Patricia Causey Nichols
San José State University

Language educators are at a crossroads. After half a century of nearly total neglect of the English language system as a subject of instruction in the schools (Hudson 1999), recent publications such as Denham & Lobeck (forthcoming), Haussamen (forthcoming), Mulder et al. (2001; 2002), and Wheeler (1999a; 1999b) reflect current interest in this topic that is both linguistically grounded and politically motivated (Nichols, forthcoming). Although LAVIS I (Montgomery & Bailey, 1986) included several papers on language use of children in the South, and LAVIS II included a couple (Bernstein, Nunnally, & Sabino, 1997), the 2004 session on Language in the Schools for LAVIS III reflects the increasing concern for how language is presented as a subject of inquiry for the next generation.
Particularly in this region where minority dialects are widespread and their speakers too often penalized for using them in the classroom, language educators will need to work out a balanced approach that ensures political motivations for "standards-based" instruction will not eclipse sound linguistic principles for new curricula. The challenge can be addressed in two stages: 1) reform of the curriculum for university-based classes in introductory linguistics and English language structure, and 2) development of K-12 curricular materials that focus on discovery procedures for learning about structure and use. The notions of register and codeswitching must be front and center in both phases because these are the linguistic notions most accessible to students at all levels in their everyday observation of language. Register and codeswitching can serve as the frame for studying the structural elements of English, including school grammar notions such as parts of speech, complete sentences, verb tenses, and pronominal cases -- as well as dialect pronunciations that vary by region, social class, and ethnicity.

This paper addresses the reform of university teaching in its description of courses on language structure developed for prospective teachers at California and Virginia universities (Nichols, forthcoming; Wheeler, forthcoming a & b), which focus on discovery procedures that require students to use authentic language data from their communities. It argues that modeling such a teaching approach in university classes is the surest way to promote similar teaching in K-12 classrooms. Likewise, it argues that curricular materials using authentic language samples from a variety of dialects and social registers (spoken and written) are the surest way to engage K-12 students in systematic study of the English language. Using as a model the curriculum developed jointly by school and university educators in the Australian state of Victoria (Mulder et al., 2001; 2002), the paper calls for the development of a coherent language curriculum for high school students in states of the Southern U. S. - either for four years of study similar to the Victoria materials, or as a single year-long course that satisfies graduation requirements for the study of English.



Bernstein, C., Nunnally, T, & Sabino, R. (Editors). 1997. Language variety in the South revisited. Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press.
Denham, K. & Lobeck, A. (Eds.). Forthcoming. Language in the school curriculum: What K-12 Teachers need to know. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Haussamen, B., with Benjamin, A, Kolln, M. & Wheeler, R. Forthcoming. Grammar alive: A guide for teachers. Boynton/Cook.
Hudson, R. 1999. Grammar teaching is dead--NOT! In, R. S. Wheeler (Ed.), Language alive in the classroom. Westport CT: Prager. Pp 101-112.
Mulder, J, Burridge, K., & Thomas, C. (2001). Macmillan English Language: VCE units 1 & 2. South Yarra, Victoria, Australia: Macmillan Education Australia.
Mulder, J., Clyne, M., Thomas, C., Burridge, K., & and Isaac, A. (2002). Macmillan English language: VCE units 3 & 4. South Yarra, Victoria, Australia: Macmillan Education Australia.
Nichols, P. C. Forthcoming. Introducing linguistic concepts to high school students. In, K. Denham and A. Lobeck (editors), Language in the school curriculum: What K-12 teachers need to know. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Wheeler, R. S. (Ed). (1999a). Language alive in the classroom. Westport CT: Praeger.
Wheeler, R. S. (1999b). Workings of language: From prescriptions to perspectives. Westport CT: Praeger.
Wheeler, R. S. Forthcoming a. Codeswitching: Tools of language and culture transform the dialectally diverse classroom. Language Arts.
Wheeler, R. S. Forthcoming b. Codeswitching and contrastive analysis: How and why to use the vernacular to teach Standard English. In, K. Denham and A. Lobeck (editors), Language in the school curriculum: What K-12 teachers need to know. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

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Session 10b: Saturday, April 17, 11:45-12:05, Ferguson Forum

The Sound Symbolism of Self in Innovative Naming Practices in an African American Community


Janis Nuckolls
University of Alabama

Linda Beito
Stillman College

The use of innovative first names is a notable feature of African American culture throughout the U.S. This paper reports findings from the first phase of a two part study. We clarify issues of linguistic and sociological interest pertaining to distinctive naming practices among African-Americans living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We consider innovativeness as related both to nonstandard phonotactics, especially to the use of morpheme-like sequences of sound, and also to the use of distinctive orthographic representations which are more complex than the actual sequences of sounds they represent. Using a list of 10 questions, we interviewed a random sample of students from a small private college which is overwhelmingly African American in its composition. Our interviews were tape-recorded to include students’ own pronunciations of their names. The interview format was loosely structured to allow for extended questioning by the interviewer as well as commentary by the students. Our study points to practices that are guided by identifiable principles. Sound symbolism underlies the creation of new names, which is evident in aesthetic judgments about combinations of sounds from one or more parent, from non-English language sources, and also from a stock of prefixal and suffixal morphemes such as La- and Sha- and –isha, -ika, or –ita.. The validity of these principles is attested by students’ own metapragmatic judgments of sound sequences as indexical of a particular ethnic image. Finally, we consider the crafting of innovative names as a sociologically informed practice, which implicates individuals within a matrix of expectations regarding their gender and their status with respect to mainstream society. Past studies of innovative naming practices in the African-American community have not systematically attempted to elicit speaker judgments on the significance of their names. This study probes subjects’ own evaluations about naming as a cultural and linguistic practice by which concepts of self can be accessed.

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Session 5FRI : Friday, April 16, 10:45-11:05, Ferguson Theater
Pastor, Pitchman, Politician: Examining Variation of Southern States English Features among
Three Georgians according to Current Theories of Language Variation

Thomas E. Nunnally
Auburn University

Considerable quantitative work on Southern States English in general and the English of particular states and ethnic groups within the South has informed the massive amount of scholarship upon which LAVIS III is built (LAGS, LAMSAS, LAVIS I, LAVIS II, TELSUR Project, PST, SOD, etc.). Less numerous, but still important, are qualitative studies, such as those of Johnstone and Cukor-Avila published in the LAVIS II volume (1997), which place the idiolectic particulars of a speaker or small group of speakers within the larger regional context and outlines provided by the quantitatively driven studies. Such micro-studies are needed in that the generalizing act of compiling statistics of variable use lessens the ability to understanding individual variation. It is therefore necessary to look closely at a particular speaker to understand how the generalizations about a language variety and its variables actually play out within the web of competing forces, language ideologies, social constraints, background experiences, and personal attitudes that make a person’s language uniquely his or her own. Besides micro-analysis, another important but seldom explored research topic is the comparative evaluation of different models and theories of linguistic behavior, a project requiring the bringing of their various claims and insights to bear upon the same data. Note that this endeavor differs greatly from an eclectic approach that picks and chooses what the researcher deems useful from various hands. Rather, the comparison of theories/models has as an important goal the evaluation of what each can or cannot offer in regard to clarifying the complexities of data. This study includes analyses of public speech by three later-middle-aged White males native to Georgia in order to study their incidence and variation of the common SSE features monophthongized /aI/ and non-constricted post-vocalic /r/. Each subject uses the variables, but frequency among the three varies strikingly: one, a nationally-known politician, has largely removed the SSE variants except in certain sentential and syllabic contexts; another, a radio and television voice-over announcer, has obviously tried to remove them, considering them undesirable according to his own testimony, but has nonetheless retained them against his will, again in describable contexts; the third, a very successful mainline minister in a large urban church, seems to relish their use and hardly ever varies them with standard forms. Using the subjects’ patterns of variation, the study will bring to bear upon the data a selection of current theories/models to investigate their explanatory power. Some of the possible approaches to be discussed, as time permits, are Speech Accommodation Theory (now usually Communication AT), social identity formation, Audience Design, the Markedness Model, socially motivated sound change, language (vernacular) maintenance, standardization ideology, quasi-standard and regional-standard ideology, the critical period hypothesis, perceptual dialectology, social network theory, and salience theory. This paper will therefore provide description of idiolectal variation, as a salutary contrast to homogenized variational studies, and explanation of it as far as the theories surveyed allow.


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