Sociolinguistic variation in practice : an ethnographic study of stylistic variation and social meaning in the Chicano English of 'El Barrio'
- Because language, as a method of communication, is a two-way channel involving both speakers and listeners, a methodical study of linguistic variation should involve an analysis of both, how it is expressed and how it is interpreted. Furthermore, because language is known to vary between individuals (inter-speaker variation) as well as at the individual level (intra-speaker variation), ideally both perspectives should be considered. In this dissertation, I combine these varied approaches, analyzing both production and perception data, and inter-speaker and intra-speaker variation, to study the variable realization of (sh) as [ch] and (ch) as [sh] (e.g. "share" variably pronounced as chair, and "much" as mush) in the Chicano English of 'El Barrio' in East Austin, Texas. The fieldwork for this study was conducted over the course of seven years (2011-2017) and involved three different but related components: A community study, involving the analysis of a dozen individuals from a larger sample of over 100 sociolinguistic interviews conducted by the researcher in 2011-12; a repeated recordings stylistic variation case study of Susana, one of 12 City Council candidates for East Austin whom I recorded in multiple contexts over the course of several months, before and after the 2014 election; and a matched-guise perception experiment (facilitated by digital stimulus manipulation) with 160 community participants that I conducted in 2016-2017. The data from each one of these three sources reinforce and complement each other to provide a deeper understanding of the meaning of sh/ch variation within the East Austin Latina/o community. Besides illustrating the value of using multiple data sources, this dissertation advances research in sociolinguistics through the specific knowledge gained from the sociophonetic analyses themselves, especially given that they increase our knowledge of a relatively understudied population, and especially given current demographic trends. Latinos are our nation's largest and fastest growing minority population, but we still have much to learn about their language variation and its role in speakers' identities, social practices, education, work and politics. This dissertation focuses on Chicano English, an ethnic dialect spoken by many Latinos, especially in the Southwest. It illuminates how speakers of Chicano English make use of linguistic features to construct identity, and create/effect social meaning. Previous research on the sh~ch alternation describes this phenomenon in terms of speaker 'confusion, ' or the result of Spanish interference, or free variation between two sounds or as a feature that has been "lost" in Chicano English. My research reveals that, on the contrary, the sh~ch alternation is alive, occurring about 23% of the time in the speech of 'El Barrio' members. Moreover, the alternation is very systematic, constrained by general principles of consonant strengthening and weakening, by social factors like age, education, and gender it is used as a stylistic resource to mark ethnic identity, informality, and other social meanings. The perception experiment reveals too that community members sensitively evaluate speakers who use or don't use the alternation, in terms of how sincere or relaxed they are, what levels of education and kinds of occupation they have, and other dimensions. Interestingly enough, and contrary to speculation in the literature, they do NOT hear speakers who use the sh~ch alternation as foreign born or as non-native English speakers. Crucially, these results reveal the benefit of investigating the social meaning of variation from various methodological perspectives, as the results complement each other nicely, revealing findings that would have been otherwise missed and reinforcing findings discovered by the other methods. The dissertation also demonstrates the value of studying the general tendency of politicians to do extensive, purposeful code-switching and variation in public—a relatively untapped resource among sociolinguists. Among the directions for future research are to understand more profoundly the sentiments of hostility, anger and a poignant sense that 'El Barrio' is quieter and lonelier because younger Latina/os have been displaced by gentrification. What do these sentiments really mean, and do they have a marked gender component, as some suggest? And do they have linguistic corollaries, similar to those Labov found in the early 1960s among residents of Martha's Vineyard who were upset about the influx of tourists from the mainland? My three-pronged research methodology didn't shed as much light on this as I wished, at least for the variables I considered and suggests that a fourth ethnographic foray into the community might be in order. The prospect is exciting, both for our understanding of the dimensions of sociolinguistic variation in Chicano English, and for the theory and methodology of sociolinguistics more generally.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Flores-Bayer, Isla Kristina
|Stanford University, Department of Linguistics.
|Rickford, John R, 1949-
|Rickford, John R, 1949-
|Statement of responsibility
|Isla Kristina Flores-Bayer.
|Submitted to the Department of Linguistics.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
- © 2017 by Isla Kristina Flores-Bayer
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY).
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