Thesis (M.A.), 2010, 224 Pages
“To the delight of linguists and to the chagrin of almost everyone else, language is forever changing” (Gordon 2001: 2). Generally, change may occur in all parts of language, e.g.in its phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics. Traditionally, however, the linguistic focus has been placed on sound change whose progress can be observed by studying language in its social context and the realization by its natives (cf. Labob 1971a).
While staying in New York City for a long period of time earlier this year, my original topic of interest for a thesis was special grammatical features or words typical of New York City English (NYCE). However, my supervisor, Prof. Glauser, informed me that empirical research, in order to obtain useful, representative data, would take too much time with one of the chosen topics. Furthermore, he introduced me to the Northern Cities Chain Shift, i.e. to sound change, which is much easier to analyze.
The Northern Cities Chain Shift (NCS) strongly influences the order of six short vowels in the vowel system of General American (GA), which have not been changed much by other important chain shifts, e.g. the Great Vowel Shift (GVS), in the historical development of English. The NCS has been in progress for several centuries, but still has not been completed. In addition, although the vowel changes triggered by the NCS are severe, only a few linguists have conducted empirical research on that topic. The present thesis will contribute its share to the empirical data collected with respect to the NCS, by analyzing speech samples taken of eight different speakers during a stay in New York City, N.Y. with respect to the occurrence of the NCS in the dialect of New York City.
Since the term dialect, according to Francis (1958: 43), denominates “the variety of language spoken by the members of a single homogeneous speech community”, the fact that New York City is such a “highly complicated speech area” (Bronstein 1962: 12) brings up the question of how homogenous it is as a speech community and whether one can speak of a New York dialect at all. Hence, chapter two of the present thesis deals with the special role of New York City English as an American accent and describes why it can be treated as belonging to a distinct speech community.[...]
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