Tracing language history through consonant cluster reduction: comparative evidence from isolated dialects

Record Number: 
WOLF007
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Wolfram, Walt, Becky Childs, and Benjamin Torbert. “Tracing language history through consonant cluster reduction: comparative evidence from isolated dialects.” Southern Journal of Linguistics 24.1 (Spring 2000): 16-40.

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The hypothesis of this article is that historically isolated dialects in which prevocalic consonant cluster reduction (CCR) occurs have experienced phonological transfer from a source language which did not have syllable-coda consonant clusters. Lumbee Vernacular English (see specifically pages 27-30) is one of three historically isolated dialects studied. The authors offer, as examples of prevocalic CCR, the use of wes' for west, fin' for find, and col' for cold.

The authors analyzed speech samples from 32 Lumbee speakers, divided into four generational groups: Pre-World War I (aged 90+), Pre-World War II (aged 64-89), Pre-Integration (aged 42-63), and Post-Integration (aged 21-41). The VARBRUL analysis of CCR revealed that overall, Lumbee CCR is slightly lower than the incidence found among African American speakers but slightly higher than that found in Anglo speakers (especially for the Pre-World War I Lumbee speakers). An explanation for this finding might be the substratal effect of transfer from the heritage language of the Lumbees. The authors mention studies of other Native American groups that have shown similar results. Another explanation might be Lumbee contact with African American speakers. Other studies of Lumbee Vernacular English have shown, however, that Lumbee speakers (particularly older ones) generally align with Anglo, rather than African American, speakers.

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