Colloquium: Grant Berry, Pennsylvania State University: "Echoes from below: Minority adoption of majority sound change"

November 10, 2017 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm


A longstanding contention in sociolinguistics is that minorities do not participate in ongoing language changes in the local majority. However, recent work on visible minorities in the US (e.g., Chinese-Americans, Hispanics) finds that they doadopt local changes in-progress—albeit not necessarily with the same linguistic or social conditioning. In this talk, I provide evidence that minorities do indeed participate in local language change, using recently collected data from an understudied, minority population embedded within a community whose linguistic patterns over the last century have been well-documented: Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia. Conversational and elicited speech from Puerto Ricans aged 19-63 (x̄ = 36.5, s= 13.4; N = 36, 25 F) were collected and transcribed, and three key sound changes in-progress in the majority, white community in Philadelphia—each of which has a different level of social awareness in that population—were analyzed. Results suggest that Puerto Ricans, despite limited social mobility and strong residential segregation, have adopted patterns of variation consistent with these changes in-progress—even for incipient changes with no social awareness. Taken together, the findings provide strong evidence that minority sub-communities may adopt wider sound changes, even when geographically segregated from the local majority.    

Location and Address

Cathedral G-13