Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Linguistic Theory and Typology (MALTT)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Linguistic Theory & Typology

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Cramer

Abstract

Research into the dialects of the New England states (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont) has traditionally split the region into distinct geographic regions based upon variations in production, primarily along an East-West border. Generally, such regions have been considered relatively stable in terms of their variation (Labov, Ash and Boberg 2006); however, recent work in the area has found that the traditional dialect boundaries have begun to shift (c.f. Stanford, Leddy-Cecere and Baclawski 2012). Such research has focused on very specific regional changes in production, ignoring the perceptual salience of the features observed to be in flux. To date very few studies (Ravindranath and Fernandes 2014) have examined how New Englanders perceive the regional divisions, with emphasis on the collected regions while not focusing specifically on how regions view each other in terms of difference and similarity.

This study examines regional perceptions of dialects in the New England states as seen by a small subset of New Englanders, predominantly residents of Maine and Massachusetts, through two studies: one conducted using a new web-based approach and another using the traditional pen-and-paper method of perceptual dialectology. Speakers have been asked to identify areas with differing varieties through the draw-a-map task (Preston 1989). These responses are then aggregated using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), contrasting results between the two methods. Results are used to identify areas of salient dialectal features across New England, informing contemporary and future research into language change in a region considered as stable. Additionally, methodological concerns and advances are addressed.

Jones_map_data.zip (10329 kB)
Maps collected for research

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