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LING 320 (6)
Chapter 6

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McGill University
LING 320
Charles Boberg

Chapter 6 Language Variation Regional Variation 1. Dialect Geography a. views languages as differing internally as speakers become physically distant over time and space, this distance creates new dialects of language. Over much time, these dialects turn into new languages b. in this model of language change, it should be possible to attribute any variation due to the factors of time and/or distance c. draws upon assumptions and methods from historical linguistics, as well as historical resources (population studies, written records, archeological findings) to confirm findings d. to explain differences, linguists use models such as: i. family tree - how Latin has branched into French, Spanish, Italian ii. phonemic split - English /f/ and /v/ are not distinctive phonemes whereas once they were phonetic variants iii. phonemic coalescence - English ea and ee as in beat and beet once had different pronunciations iv. comparative method of reconstruction - English knave and German Knabe come from the same source v. internal reconstruction - mouse and mice used to not have different vowel sounds 2. Dialect Atlases a. used by dialect geographers to report their findings b. show the geographical distribution of a linguistic variable c. attempt to relate distribution to historical development of the language both internally (linguistically) and externally (politically, socially, culturally) 3. Isoglosses a. line drawn on dialect atlases to show boundaries of distribution of a particular linguistic feature b. lines where on one side of the line people say something one way and on the other side of the the line, people say something else c. bundle of isoglosses i. is when a number of isoglosses coincide ii. usually marks a dialect boundary, which typically coincides with a geographical or political factor d. can show focal points i. an area from which a set of linguistic features appears to be spreading into neighboring locations 1. relic points are the opposite, denote an area which shows characteristics of being unaffected by changes spreading from neighboring places e. isoglosses are not a good indicator of dialect areas because these areas show considerable amounts of internal variation and the ares are created based usually on only a few linguistic variables f. Rhenish Fan is the most famous example of a set of isoglosses i. sets off Low German in the north to High German in the south ii. shows the Second German Consonant Shift which is the change from pre-Germanic stop consonants [p,t,k] to Modern Standard German/High German where these have become the fricatives [f,s,x] 1. in Low German, these stop consonants have remained iii. the difference between these two is visible in the words: make *makn+ vs *maxn+, that [dat+ vs *das+, village *dorp+ vs *dorf+, I *ik+ vs *ix+ iv. across most of Germany, these isoglosses run together, so that in the north, stop consonants are used and in the south the fricatives are used v. however, these isoglosses fan out at the Rhine river and each area within the fan has a different occurrence of stops and fricatives, for example: Dsseldorf uses *ix+, *makn+, *dorp+, *dat+ and Trier uses *ix+, *maxn+, *dorf+, *dat+ vi. the boundaries within the fan correspond with old ecclesiastical and political boundaries vii. the area covered by the fan is considered a transition area because a change is progressing there 4. Regional Variation Studies a. focused on rural areas because they were seen as preserving older forms of the language b. urban areas were considered too linguistically unstable, innovative and difficult to study using survey techniques c. assumed that regional dialects were easy to sample: find two people in the rural area where the variation occurs who are older and untravelled, interview them, have them read words lists/particular phrases/ refer to particular objects i. this would supposedly allow the dialect geographer to show that if linguistic variable X occurs in area A, whereas X does not occur in area B and if there are enough differences between area A and B, then A and B are two dialects of the language in question d. these kinds of studies have serious limitations: i. they ignore large urban areas because of sampling and data evaluation being too complex, even though urban areas are more representative of the population ii. they are not well controlled because they only represent a few chosen individuals and considers these individuals to be representative of the area being sampled iii. it is the field workers who create the system of categorization of the informants, which creates biasiv. field workers also decide who is eligible for study based on personal bias of the categorization being used (in particular, social class) v. field workers as well as informants were typically male, which marginalized women e. the above are all serious weaknesses because i. speakers from different regions do interact with one another ii. dialect boundaries are not easily define iii. change can only be regular if irregularities are regarded as exceptions, relics, borrowings, minor variations etc iv. urban cities do have a large influence on language variation 5. Individual Variation a. linguists now recognize that individuals do speak one way on one occasion and other ways on other occasions even within very localized groups: i. dialect mixture is the existence in one locality of two ore more dialects which allow a speaker(s) to draw on one dialect at a certain time, and the other at a different time ii. free variation or random meaningless variation of no significance can also describe this same variation b. however, upon analysis, both dialect mixture and free v
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