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Sociophonetic Variation, Orientation and Topic in County Durham

Devlin, Thomas (2014) Sociophonetic Variation, Orientation and Topic in County Durham. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis presents a sociophonetic study of four villages in County Durham which have not previously been explored in sociolinguistic literature. As well as examining socially-conditioned phonological variation across the villages, the study analyses the linguistic relationship between the research site and two larger localities with their own urban varieties of English, which are situated at either side of the research area: the city of Sunderland to the north and the Teesside conurbation to the south. The study examines phonological variability in the linguistic production of a socially-homogeneous group of thirty-two speakers, split equally across the four villages and stratified by emically-defined age groups. More than 6500 tokens of the MOUTH, FACE, GOAT and START variables (following Wells’ 1982 method of classifying sets of vowels) are analysed from recorded sociolinguistic interviews with informants. The findings are compared to previous sociolinguistic investigations of other varieties of North East English in terms of the levelling of variants local to the area. The established methodological comparison of read speech and conversational styles is complemented by detailed investigation of the conversational topic in which the production occurs, and its effect on phonological variation. An Identity Questionnaire (pioneered by Llamas 2001) explores identity construction in County Durham and how this is shaped by local speech patterns. This is achieved by surveying speakers’ individual attitudes and perceptions about their local area and accents. The correlation of this language ideology data and speakers’ actual linguistic performance allows the study to assess the role orientation plays in variant usage. While some variables (GOAT and MOUTH) demonstrate change in the direction of levelled variants, highly local forms are favoured in individual villages in terms of the FACE and START vowels which only pattern with geographical areas below the regional level (younger speakers close to Teesside overwhelmingly use the local START form found in Teesside; younger speakers further north retain the local FACE variant found in Tyneside and Sunderland). However, speakers across all locations produce a higher proportion of local variants in the highly local conversational topic of coal mining.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Language and Linguistic Science (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.644982
Depositing User: Mr Thomas Devlin
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2015 15:25
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8755

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