Lansing, Language, and Life Abstract

Katherine Fraser, Michigan State University

The Northern Cities Shift (NCS) is change in the pronunciation of vowels that affects speakers in the Midwest. To outside speakers, the change is recognizable by “Ann” sounding like “Ian” or “block” sounding like “black”. Sociolinguistic studies have found that dialectal changes are not homogenous but that different populations are affected differently, influenced by factors such as race, gender, and age. Apart from dialect perception research and a few general studies on the NCS in Michigan, there has been no previous, detailed, sociolinguistic work on Lansing. Linguists have instead been focusing on populations in nearby towns, such as Detroit, Ypsilanti, and Mount Pleasant. My study set out to investigate a group of speakers from the Lansing area, and to find out whether they are participating in this shift. In particular, I chose to study the elderly population because it would represent the earliest stages of the shift in Lansing. My participants were three white women, aged 70-90 years old residents of the Eastside neighborhood, whom I recorded in sociolinguistic interviews. The vowels of each speaker will be extracted and measured, in order to see if they have shifted to the position of other speakers participating in the NCS. Once the data analysis is completed, I hope to find out whether the subjects are shifting their vowels. If they are, this would lay groundwork for comparison of younger speakers. Also, that the elderly have shifted indicates Lansing is part of the NCS, an important discovery for mapping out the vowel shift.


Make a Free Website with Yola.