Sound change reversal in context: Production and perception of the Northern Cities Shift in a Chicago neighborhood

Date / Time

March 13, 2020

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


While dialectological work once indicated that American English regional dialects were becoming increasingly disparate over time (e.g. Labov 2014), recent sociolinguistic studies are revealing the opposite trend in some regions, showing movement away from regionally distinctive language features (e.g. Prichard & Tamminga 2012, Dodsworth & Kohn 2012). Specifically, the Inland North region’s characteristic Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCS), which had been advancing throughout the 20th century (Labov 2007), has begun to reverse its trajectory in some Inland North locales (Driscoll & Lape 2015; Wagner et al. 2016), including in Chicago (McCarthy 2011, Durian & Cameron 2019). In this talk, I explore the ways in which NCS reversal is socially conditioned in one Chicago neighborhood area. I demonstrate how both broader sociohistorical dynamics of migration and racialization, as well as highly localized oppositions and ideologies inform patterns of vocalic change in this neighborhood. Finally, I examine how perceptual processes are related to the sound changes observed in production. This multi-faceted study suggests that the processes by which regionalized sound changes slow, halt and, ultimately, reverse requires an understanding of sociohistorical changes, local ideologies, and individual-level patterns of speech perception in places where reversal occurs.


Part of the UIC Talks in Linguistics.

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