Chapter 7: Some Findings and Issues
An Early Study
Earliest studies of variation was FISCHERS STUDY (1958)
o (ng) variable - [n], or [+
o Part of a study in child-rearing practices in New England
o 12 boys and 12 girls (ages: 3-10)
o 3 INTERVIEW STYLES: Administered in a very FORMAL situation the Thematic
Apperception Test, than had a LESS FORMAL interview, and an INFORMAL interview
o RESULTS: boys used more in forms than girls in the most formal situation
o Compared model boys to typical boys in terms of *n+ and *+. The model boy
worked well in school and was described as being popular, thoughtful, and considerate.
The typical boy was described as being strong, mischievous, and apparently unafraid of
being caught doing something wrong.
Model boys used many more ing endings than typical boys and typical boys
used approximately an even amount of ing and in endings (favoring -in a
little more) if the formality of the situation was controlled for.
The model more also used in more as the formality of the situation decreased
(they were able to adjust to the situation)
As children relaxed (in the informal interview): produced more in for specific
verbs like HIT, CHEW, SWIM, PUNCH because they described everyday activity.
Formal verbs were much more likely to be given the ing ending, such as for
verbs like CRITICIZE, CORRECT, READ, VISIT.
CONCLUSION: The choice between the ing and the in variants appears to be
related to sex, class, personality, mood of the speaker and to FORMALITY of
the conversation and the specific VERN spoken
New York City
Labovs study in New York City: first great quantitative study
Hypothesis: r-pronunciation after vowels was being re-introduced in New York City and that it
was a feature of the younger people rather than of older people. Was more likely to occur as
formality increased and more likely at word endings (floor), than before consonants (fourth).
Experiments described in class as taking place in Saks (high0end store), Macys (middle class
store) and S-Klein (working class store). RESULTS: r-pronunciation was favored in Saks to a greater extent than in Macys, but much less
so in S.Klein. Careful repetition of the utterance nearly always increased r-pronunciation, and
pronunciation of r was more often found in floor than in fourth in all circumstances
In Saks it was older people who used r-pronunciation less, data from S.Klein about this
was inconclusive, and in Macys: r- pronunciation was said more with older participants.
Conclusion: MEMEBERS OF THE HIGHEST AND THE LOWEST SOCIAL GROUPS TEND NOT TO
CHANGE THEIR PRONUNCIATIONS after it becomes fixed in adolescence but members of
middle class do change their r-pronunciation habits due t social aspirations of being better and
becoming part of the upper class.
R-pronunciation is now valued in words like car or guard (word finally). They are associated
with the upper class even if they do not use such a pronunciation all the time and in all
R-pronunciation was not always valued in NYC. R-lessness predominated until WWII. When
population movement into the city occurred r-pronunciation was heard more by people coming
from different regions and thus became popular again
SUBJECTIVE REACION TESTS showed that upper middle class and under age 40 almost always
approved r-pronunciation even though fewer than half actually used r in all instances. Above
age 40, approval fell off to about 60% and use showed a drastic decline and went down to 10%.
Look at graph on page 171 (also shown several times in class) and notice: the amount of r
use increases by social class and by formality of style. However, there is one noticeable
exception: the lower middle-class speakers outperform the upper middle-class speakers on
word lists and minimal pairs. They outperform the people theyre supposed to be modeling!
This CROSS OVER in the graph is called HYPERCORRECTION.
o Hypercorrection occurs when individuals consciously try to speak like people they
regard as socially superior but actually go too far and overdo the particular linguistic
SHORTCOMINGS OF THE EXPERIMENT: no information about the amount of variance about the
means so we cannot be sure how comparable they are. They are also based on small numbers of
participants. We cant be sure that means are significantly different, which means the cross-over
can theoretically at least, be a result of data manipulation, or chance.
LABOVS OTHER EXPERIMENT
[t], [t+, *+, the last being the standard pronunciation when saying thing and three. The
first *t+ is the most nonstandard, coming out like ting and tree. This is the (th) index
Results: (table seen in class and on page 172) In every context members of the speech
community are differentiated by the use of the variable, but nevertheless every group
behaves the same way: as the formality of their speech increases from casual speech, to
careful speech, to reading style, to word lists there is an increase in *+ (the standard style).
Other variables, like (dh) in this and then, have a similar distribution(th) variables indicate that there is a SHARP BREAK in the theta pronunciation between working-
class groups and middle-class groups (sharp increase seen all of a sudden). THIS SHARP BREAK IS
CALLED SHARP STRATIFICATION
NORWICH AND READING
Trudghill incestigated 16 phonological variables in Norwich, England
Demonstrated, like Labov, how the use of variants is related to social class and level of
Higher the social class the more frequent is the use of *+, *t+, *h+. , females showing a
greater preference for *+ than males, regardless of social class
SHORTCOMINGS: Trudghill noticed that perhaps his own use of glottal stops shadowed the
use of the participants glottal stops. The more the participants used a glottal stop, the more
did he. Fortunately, his use almost always trailed any others use. This is an example of
When style is kept constant, the lower the social class the greater the incidence of
nonstandard variant, when class is constant: the less formal the style the more the
nonstandard was seen.
Cheshire: (s) variable in the speech of three groups of boys and girls. The (s) variable in this
case is the extension of third-person singular verb makings in 13 boys and 12 girls, aged 9-