Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A New Perspective on Vowel Variation across the 19th and 20th Centuries in Columbus, OH
by Durian, David, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2012, 452; 10631050
Abstract (Summary)

The research in this dissertation focuses on the documentation and analysis of vowel variation and sound change in Columbus, OH. Columbus is a Midland speech community located in the Midwestern United States. Specifically, this work documents and analyzes vowel variation among 62 native-English speaking European American informants, who are divided into 4 generation cohort groups (speakers born 1896-1913; 1924-1938, 1945-1968, and 1976-1991), 2 social class groups (middle and working), and 2 sex groups (male and female), so that patterns of vowel variation and sound change can be measured quantitatively across a number of speakers' vowel systems which are representative of the Columbus vowel system throughout the course of the 20th Century. Some vowel system data, obtained from 19th Century Central Ohioans, is also analyzed for use in establishing an "initial state" for the Columbus vowel system, from which patterns of vowel variation and sound change observed in the data diverge over time.

Although vowel variation and sound change across the entire vowel system is documented and analyzed, several specific patterns of vowel variation are given extensive focus for analysis, description, and discussion. These patterns include the parallel fronting of the back diphthongs /uw/ and /ow/; the conditioned tensing and raising of /ae/, also known as split short-a system raising; and the Third Dialect Shift, a pattern of covariant vowel movement in which the low vowels /a/ and /ae/ are involved in a backing chain shift, and the front vowels /E/ and /I/ are involved in a backing parallel shift. Each of these patterns of vowel variation are quantitatively analyzed using linear mixed effects regression (lmer) analyses. The data analyzed are vowel formant data normalized using Lobanov's (1971) z-score technique.

The influence of the social factors sex, social class, and age on the social conditioning of vowel variation is analyzed using the lmers, as are the linguistic factors of following and preceding consonant. Additional factors, such as speakers' social evaluations of vowel variations, speakers' language attitudes towards social and regional dialects spoken in Ohio and in the US more generally, and speakers' attitudes towards Columbus as a community, are also investigated. In addition, the possible influence of demographic changes, economic changes, and urban growth patterns in Columbus during the 20th Century on the patterns of vowel variation exhibited by speakers is explored.

Our study is notable in being the first to document the occurrence of the split short-a system in Columbus vowel systems. It is also notable as being the first statistical analysis of vowel variation trends in a US Midland community across 4 generations of middle and working class European American speakers. In addition, it is the first to feature a systematic overall pattern analysis of the full vowel systems of 19th Century-born Central Ohioans impressionistically transcribed for the Linguistic Atlas of the North Central States [LANCS] in 1933 (and collected as McDavid & Payne, 1976-1978).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Winford, Donald
Commitee: Clopper, Cythia, Joseph, Brian
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Linguistics, American history, Geography
Keywords: Central Ohio dialect, Columbus, Ohio, Phonetic analogy, Sociolinguistics, Sound change, Vowel variation
Publication Number: 10631050
ISBN: 9780355013498
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