Re-examining Dialect Recession in Ocracoke Island

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Title: Re-examining Dialect Recession in Ocracoke Island
Author: D'Andrea, Kristina Marie
Advisors: Walt Wolfram, Committee Chair
Abstract: Though dialect recession in small, historically insular communities has now been the focus of a number of variation studies, there are few studies that scrutinize this process in real time. Ocracoke Island, located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, presents an ideal situation for this study as tourists and new residents continue to flood the island that is still called home by 300 to 400 ancestral islanders among its 700 to 800 permanent residents. Sociolinguistic interviews were conducted on the island by the North Carolina Language and Life Project (NCLLP) in the early 1990s, almost 15 years ago, and since that time the NCLLP's presence on the island has remained constant. In recent years (2005-present), a follow-up study to that conducted in 1993-1995 has been launched in order to assess how quickly the language of Ocracoke really is receding, and what, if any, effects the NCLLP's presence has had on the dialect. This thesis examines both qualitative and quantitative data collected from almost 70 interviews. In an analysis of discourse between Ocracoke middle schoolers, certain ideologies about Ocracoke in-group identity are discovered as well as struggles in maintaining the image of "color-blindness" in conversations about the recent Hispanic presence on the island. Additionally, two morphosyntactic and one phonological feature typical of the Brogue dialect are analyzed. Past tense remorphologization of the negative forms of be, as in I weren't or she weren't, and the use of the static locative to in place of prepositional lexical items such as at, as in he's to the dock, are both common morphosyntactic features found along the Outer Banks and especially in Ocracoke (Schilling-Estes & Wolfram 1994; Wolfram, Hazen, & Schilling-Estes 1999; Vadnais 2006). Also, the relative backing of the nucleus of the glide ⁄ai⁄ in relation to ⁄⁄ production, creating such productions as hoi toid, is a salient and commonly referenced variation of this particular region (Wolfram & Schilling-Estes 1995; Craig 1994). While all three of these features are decreasing in relative usage, the distribution among different age and social groups leads to the usage differentiations analyzed in this thesis. Local groups, including the "Poker Game Network" (Wolfram & Schilling-Estes 1995, 1997; Wolfram, Hazen, & Schilling-Estes 1999) and the "Pelican Network" (identified in this thesis) help to clarify the definition of a "traditional" Ocracoke male. However, participating in such networks may not singularly correlate with the preservation of traditional island norms. Certain families and individuals seem to be the inspiration for the vision most islanders consider a true O'cocker, as they're called.
Date: 2007-04-26
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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