School Co-Attendance Networks and the Southern Vowel Shift

Robin Dodsworth & Richard Benton, NCSU, English & Duke University, Sociology
Many linguistic features that have defined the Southern United States for at least a century have recently been retreating in urban areas. In particular, the traditional Southern vowel system is shifting toward a non-regional system, largely as the result of proximity and exposure to migrants from other regions. Because vowel systems are mostly established by late adolescence, contact among children from distinct regions in school is a driving force in the retreat from Southern vowels. The present study explores how the Southern vowel shift is moderated by the school co-attendance network—a social network constructed from speaker-to-school ties. We apply this framework to a sample of 147 speakers in Raleigh, North Carolina. We employ quadratic assignment procedure (QAP) models to show that similarity in speaker birth-year predicts similar linguistic features but that this pattern is moderated by school co-attendance. We demonstrate that social network analysis provides a useful analytic framework for investigating linguistic variation.
January, 12 2015 | 12:30 - 14:00 | Gross Hall 230E

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