Linguistics Colloquium - Monica Nesbitt

4:00 pm on Monday, September 30, 2019
5:30 pm on Monday, September 30, 2019
Contact Name:
Carol Neidle
"Gradually changing their minds: The impact of internal social change on local phonology in Lansing, MI"* Abstract: One of the fundamental questions for the field of linguistics is how can we account for grammatical change, i.e. how can we account for the fact that a person might have a grammar that is different from their parents. At the level of phonology, though many theorize that changes in phonological representation must be the result of phonetic variation often brought on by contact with speakers of differing systems, there is little empirical evidence from speech communities while a phonological change is in progress to support this widely held view. For this talk, I will examine an allophonic change in progress underway in Lansing, Michigan: whereas older generations raised and fronted /æ/ in all phonological environments, younger community members raise and front /æ/ only before nasal consonants. The results of acoustic, psycholinguistic, and socio-historical studies will be examined to determine the linguistic/internal and social/external mechanisms by which this change was initiated and spread throughout the community. I argue that rather than contact with speakers from outside of the community, this grammatical change is internally motivated; the result of significant socio-cultural changes within the community. * We gratefully acknowledge support from the Office of the Associate Dean for the Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences.