Apr 22

Linguistics job talk: Merging, Monophthongization, and Mardi Gras: Doing Sociolinguistics in New Orleans

Mon, April 22, 2024 • 4:00pm - 5:00pm (1h) • Willis 204

Please join the Linguistics Department for a job talk by Dana Serditova, a PhD candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Freiburg.

"Where y'at?" Hopefully, at this talk, ready to dive into the fascinating linguistic landscape of New Orleans — a city as renowned for its distinctive dialects as it is for its jazz and jambalaya. Among numerous morphosyntactic, lexical, and phonetic features found in the Big Easy, two — namely, the PIN~PEN merger and /aɪ/-monophthongization — are the centerpiece of this presentation. These features not only showcase the richness of language variation within New Orleans but also serve as a lens through which we can examine broader themes of linguistic change and identity in urban environments.

The PIN~PEN merger: A salient Southern feature that has never been studied in the context of New Orleans English before. The merger is part of the Southern Shift and involves the blending of vowels in words like "pin" and "pen", with both vowels rising and shifting to the peripheral track (Labov et al. 2006). The feature has spread beyond the US South, but tendencies towards a demerger have been attested for in urban centers in Texas and Georgia, raising questions about its status in New Orleans (Tillery and Bailey 2004, Koops, Gentry, and Pantos 2008).

/aɪ/-monophthongization: A prominent and salient feature of the US South (Fridland 2003, Fridland 2012, Anderson 2008, Tillery 1992). Defined phonetically, it is a diphthong with an absent or shortened glide, often manifesting as /a:/ or /aæ/ — a single, elongated vowel sound. Although instances have been observed in New Orleans (Schoux Casey 2018), a comprehensive analysis in this specific context has never been conducted.

In this presentation, we will delve into the current state of the merger and the /aɪ/ diphthong in New Orleans, drawing on a socially balanced and representative dataset of 115 speakers. The features were studied in the framework of a project grounded in sociolinguistics, with a focus on concepts like salience, indexicality, and enregisterment. Methodologically, I employ tools like Bhattacharyya Affinity and Trajectory Length to quantify these features. Ultimately, I aim to offer a comprehensive analysis of the two features in New Orleans English, paving the way for deeper insights into regional linguistic variations.

In addition to the sociophonetic analysis, we will explore the unique aspects of doing fieldwork and research in New Orleans, the city's historical influences on its current social dynamics, intriguing lexical features, as well as potential directions for future research. Who knows? By this time next year, students here at Carleton could be pioneering these very projects.

Event Contact: Lisa Falconer

Event Summary

Linguistics job talk: Merging, Monophthongization, and Mardi Gras: Doing Sociolinguistics in New Orleans
  • Intended For: General Public, Students, Faculty, Staff, Emeriti, Alums, Prospective Students, Families
  • Categories: Lecture/Panel, Meeting/Conference/Workshop

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