Assumed but Not Typically Stated…

In analyses of vowel systems conducted in sociolingusitics since the 1970s (Labov, et al, 1972, following in the footsteps of Martinet, 1952; 1955), we usually have adopted the overall pattern approach to analyzing vowel systems. This approach, which has essentially become an underlying assumption of how vowel system analysis “should” work, in particular in analyses of dialectal variation within English, however, is rather contrastive with earlier approaches, particularly those of the school of analysis who worked in the tradition of dialect analysis popular in the US during the era that dialectologists such as Kurth and McDavid were working.

These papers, by Robert Stockwell, provide a useful perspective on why, ultimately, analysts following after Labov settled on this approach, even if they didn’t themselves realize they were doing so (besides, perhaps, wanting to emulate Labov’s work given how well it has captured dialectal vowel variance).

Stockwell, Robert. 1964. On the utility of an overall pattern in historical English phonology. In Horace G. Lunt (Ed.), Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Linguists. London: Mouton & Co. pp. 663-671. http://www.ling.osu.edu/~ddurian/AWAC/Stockwell_1964.pdf

Stockwell, Robert. 1959. Structural dialectology: A proposal. American Speech, 34.4:258-268. http://www.ling.osu.edu/~ddurian/AWAC/Stockwell_1959.pdf

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About daviddurian
I am a sociolinguist with a Ph D in Linguistics from The Ohio State University and an MA in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from Northern Illinois University. Currently, I work as the Lecturer at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, where I teach undergraduate courses in sociolinguistics, general linguistics, and first-year composition. I also work on research projects investigating variation and change in the vowel system of modern US English as it is spoken by Americans living in a variety of cities. At the moment, this includes Chicago, IL, Columbus, OH, and Eastern Pennsylvania.

One Response to Assumed but Not Typically Stated…

  1. Daniel Ezra Johnson says:

    Why not take a paragraph or two to sketch what you and your references mean by the “overall pattern approach” and its alternatives? Instead of expecting people to look at those articles?

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