Schilling-Estes, Natalie. “Redrawing ethnic dividing lines through linguistic creativity.” American Speech 75.4 (2000): 357-359.
This brief but intriguing essay argues convincingly that “people engaged in everyday conversational interaction use language to bridge gaps and form friendships that cross ethnic lines--and , in effect, redraw these lines” (p. 358). Schilling-Estes has studied Lumbee dialect and how it differs from African American and Euro-American dialects in Robeson County for the past six years. She describes some shifts in dialect features that she observed during a sociolinguistic interview involving two close friends, a Lumbee from Robeson County and an African American from Wilmington, North Carolina. If dialect functions primarily to reflect who one is, the speakers' use of certain dialect features should have remained constant during the interview. Instead, one feature--r-lessness--varied widely in both speakers. Sometimes the African American used more (as one would predict); sometimes the Lumbee used more. The speakers “showed the most widely divergent levels of r-lessness when they engaged in discussions of race relations” (p. 358), but their levels of r-lessness were most alike when they discussed topics on which they share knowledge and experiences through their friendship.