Differential Vowel Accommodation among Two Native American Groups

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Title: Differential Vowel Accommodation among Two Native American Groups
Author: Coggshall, Elizabeth Learn
Advisors: Agnes Bolonyai, Committee Member
Erik R. Thomas, Committee Chair
Walt Wolfram, Committee Member
Abstract: Despite recent attention to English varieties spoken by Native Americans in the Eastern United States, (Anderson 1999; Wolfram & Dannenberg 1999; Dannenberg 2002), they have generally been overlooked in terms of their construction of ethnolinguistic identity (Fought 2002). Many Native American contact situations in the Eastern US are different from those in the Western US because of the relative length of contact with and exposure to marked dialects of English. Is there evidence for a pan-lectal core of Native American English or a "Boarding School effect" in Eastern US, as posited for the Southwest by Leap (1993) and others? How have Native American speakers accommodated to their regional English dialects? Is there evidence for lingering source language transfer or substrate influence? Do these Native American English varieties maintain an ethnic identity separate from their regional identity? These questions are addressed through the comparative examination of the vowel systems of the Eastern Cherokee and Lumbee English, two prominent but quite distinct Native American groups in North Carolina. Their vowel systems are compared with each other and with their respective regional benchmark varieties—Appalachian English for the Eastern Cherokee and the Coastal Plain European American and African American English for the Lumbee in Robeson County. Based on acoustic analysis, their overall vowel systems are compared, with particular attention paid to the fronting of back vowels such as ⁄u⁄, the upgliding of ⁄⁄, and the realization of ⁄ai⁄. The Eastern Cherokee show more similarity to their European American Appalachian cohorts than do the Lumbee to their cohorts. The local Southern Highland dialect has played a primary formative role in the English of the Eastern Cherokee, especially in the production of ⁄u⁄ and ⁄⁄. At the same time, local dialect accommodation is complemented by some subtle substrate effects from the Cherokee language on the ⁄ai⁄ diphthongs (Anderson 1999). In part, this accommodation may be explained in terms of the long-term, highly local interaction between European Americans and Cherokees and the durablity of the Cherokee community in this region. A strong sense of regional place is also shared by the Eastern Cherokees with their European American cohorts. Though the Lumbee are regionally connected to other North Carolina dialect regions, they do not exhibit the degree of local dialect accommodation shown by the Cherokee. The differences include relic features such as backed ⁄ai⁄ nuclei, especially among the older speakers. Furthermore, no detectable substrate effect occurs in their vowels. This difference may be explained in terms of the Lumbee's early exposure and shift to English. Furthermore, they were historically exposed to a wider range of varieties of English than the Cherokee, and have been living in close contact with both European and African Americans since around 1730. In the process, their identity as American Indians has been questioned continually, leading to greater linguistic burden on marking themselves symbolically as the ethnolinguisitic "other"—that is, neither white nor black—in the tri-ethnic setting of Robeson County. References: Anderson, Bridget (1999). Source language transfer and vowel accommodation in the patterning of Cherokee English ⁄ai⁄ and ⁄oi⁄. American Speech 74, 4: 339-68. Dannenberg, Clare (2002). Sociolinguistic Constructs of Ethnic Identity: The Syntactic Delineation of an American Indian English. Durham, NC: Duke UP, for American Dialect Society. Fought, Carmen (2002). Ethnicity. In J. K. Chambers, P. Trudgill and N. Schilling-Estes (eds.), The Handbook of Language Variation and Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 444-72. Leap, William (1993). American Indian English. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press. Wolfram, Walt & Clare Dannenberg (1999). Dialect identity in a tri-ethnic context: The case of Lumbee American Indian English. English World-Wide 20:179-216.
Date: 2006-05-08
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/923

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