BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
Bern Open Repository and Information System

A Northern City Going Elsewhere: Apparent and Real-Time Sound Change in Ogdensburg, New York

Thiel, Anja (2019). A Northern City Going Elsewhere: Apparent and Real-Time Sound Change in Ogdensburg, New York. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

19thiel_a.pdf - Thesis
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (18MB) | Preview


The Atlas of North American English (Labov, Ash, & Boberg, 2006) found that dialect diversity in North America was increasing, via the continuing advancement of regional sound changes such as the Northern Cities Shift (NCS). In the decade since the Atlas’s publication, however, indications have emerged that that conclusion was premature, with multiple studies finding retreat from the NCS in communities where it was expected to be stable or advancing (e.g. Wagner, Mason, Nesbitt, Pevan, & Savage, 2016; Driscoll & Lape 2015). This dissertation reports a real-time study demonstrating that the loss of NCS can be rapid indeed. This study examines the loss of the NCS in Ogdensburg, a small city in rural Northern New York, on the Canadian border. On the basis of nine speakers interviewed there in 2008, Dinkin (2009, 2013) described Ogdensburg as the northeasternmost limit of the NCS, with some evidence that the NCS was advancing in apparent time. Furthermore, the data suggested an incipient merger of the low back vowels LOT and THOUGHT in the community, a feature that has been believed to be incompatible with the NCS (Labov et al., 2006). In this study, I compare those nine speakers interviewed in 2008 with a new sample of 39 speakers from the same city that I interviewed in 2016, and supplement speech production data with social perception data. The results suggest that, in the eight years between 2008 and 2016, the NCS apparently disappeared from Ogdensburg, a change that is visible in nearly all phonemes of the NCS. It appears that the community is orienting toward a new system, the Elsewhere Shift, including the merger of LOT and THOUGHT, a development that has been reported in other traditional NCS communities as well (e.g. Wagner et al., 2016). It seems that increasing negative evaluation of at least two NCS features may have been the driving force behind the abandonment of the NCS in Ogdensburg, and the points in apparent-time at which the changes emerge in the data suggest that these evaluations and the consequential restructuring of the community’s vowel system might be a response to a myriad of social changes in the community in the second half of the 20th century (Coupland, e.g. 2009).

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Single
Date of Defense: 17 September 2019
Subjects: 400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages
Institute / Center: 06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2019 16:28
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2020 00:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item