The Historiography of Linguistics, Post 4: A History of American Dialectology (Gordon Mundell, 1973)

This doctoral thesis was written by Gordon Harold Mundell at the University of Rochester in 1973. It was written under the supervision of Dean Obrecht. It provides a detailed look at the history of the field of American Dialectology from the founding of the American Dialect Society in 1881 up until the early 1970s (circa 1972 or so). Included in the discussion is analysis of materials published by the ADS in both Dialect Notes and American Speech, as well as the Publication of the American Dialect Society (PADS) series. Also included is some discussion of the series of structural dialectology papers published by linguists such as Martinet and Weinreich, among others, in the journal Word in the 1950s. In addition, discussion of the “shift” of the field to “generative methods” and the early work of Labov is included in the last chapter of the dissertation.

Given the rarity of this work, it will be posted under the Less Widely Available Archive (LWAA) PDF series area on the site for long term access.

Mundell, Gordan H. 1973. A history of American Dialectology Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.

The Historiography of Linguisitics, Post 3: The History of NWAV(E), 1972-2006

This document features discussion of the NWAV(E) conference, from its beginnings in 1972 until 2006, the 35th anniversary of the conference. Included in the document are interviews with important figures in sociolinguistics, such as Walt Wolfram, Gillian Sankoff, Dennis Preston, John Rickford, Ralph Fasold, Jack Chambers, Peter Trudgill, Roger Shuy, and William Labov. The piece originally appeared in the NWAV 35 Conference booklet, and has been circulated in a corrected and slightly updated form via Wikipedia since….

Durian, David. 2006. NWAV at 35: A Look at the History, Directions, and Development of NWAV(E), 1972- 2006: Conversations with Jack K. Chambers; Ralph Fasold, William Labov; Dennis Preston; John Rickford; Gillian Sankoff; Roger Shuy; Peter Trudgill; and Walt Wolfram. NWAV 35 Conference Booklet. Columbus, OH: Zipf Publishing.

The Historiography of Linguistics, Post 2: The History of Sociolinguistics, Another Perspective

This chapter, taken from John E. Joseph’s (2002) book From Whitney to Chomsky, presents a different view on the historical development of the field of sociolinguistics in America than sources such as Roger Shuy (see Post 1 in this area). In doing so, Joseph attempts to demonstrate how class-focused analyses of language variation predate the work of Labov and even McDavid among US scholars. In particular, he argues the work of George Putnam, Edna O’Hern, and Paul Furfey is overlooked, and these works need to be reevaluated in discussions of the history of sociolinguistic thought and study in the US.

Joseph, John E. 2002. The origins of American Sociolinguistics. From Whitney to Chomsky. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 107-132.

The Historiography of Linguistics, Post 1: Shuy 1990 on American Sociolinguistics

Recently, I have begun work on a paper that will investigate the genre of the linguistics article, and how it has changed over time. As a part of my research work on this topic, I have begun to read some of the literature on the historiography of linguistics that has been published over the years. This work contributes to an understanding of the analysis of “change” in linguistics in a different way than other articles and book chapters I’ve posted here before, but I also think it makes an important contribution that perhaps site readers will find interesting and useful.

To begin this series, I present the following article by Roger Shuy:

Shuy, Roger. 1990. A brief history of American Sociolinguistics, 1949-1989. Historographia Linguistica XVII, 1/2: 183-209.

This article deals with the shift that occurred in American Sociolinguistics from the days before Labov came on the scene to around the time the article was actually published (late 1980s). It presents a very interesting perspective on the material from Shuy, who was a linguist who was actually “on the scene” with sociolinguistic interests and focus before Labov arrived and caused the revolution his work did.

Hindle’s (1975) Syntactic variation in Philadelphia: Positive anymore Now added to the LWAA!

Now added to the Less Widely Available Archive (LWAA) we have…

Hindle, Donald. 1975. Syntactic variation in Philadelphia: Positive “anymore”. Pennsylvania Working Papers of Language Change and Variation, I.5.

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.

Stockwell, Robert. 1959. Structural dialectology: A proposal. American Speech, 34.4:258-268.

Less Widely Available Archive (LWAA) Back Online

All documents in the Less Widely Available Archive, including all of NasalFest, are now back up online. I am still working on restoring files in other sections of the site, however.

Site File Loss

Okay, so it turns out there was a file loss on the server that supports this site, and this is why folks are having trouble accessing most PDFs on the site. I have been able to restore the underlying file structure, but the files themselves still need to be restored. This means I will have to repopulate the site one file at a time.

As of November 1, I am in the process of doing so, but I have a lot going on in my teaching and research life at the moment, so it will take a while to do so. There was 2 years of stuff posted here that needs to be replaced! Slowly but surely, the files will come back online though. Thanks for your patience.

In honor of Robert Stockwell

In honor of Robert Stockwell, we present an overview collection of his work, both on his own, and with Donka Minkova, on vowel shifting in English. Please see the resources below and take the time to look at some of them. He had some very interesting, and very unique, perspectives…

Minkova, Donka and Robert Stockwell. 2003. English vowel shifts and ‘optimal’ diphthongs: Is there a logical link? In D. Eric Holt (Ed.), Optimality Theory and language change. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishing. pp. 169-190.

Stockwell, Robert. 2002. How much shifting occurred in the historical English vowel shift? In Donka Minkova and Robert Stockwell (Eds.), Studies in the history of the English Language: A millennial perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 267-281. 2002.pdf

Stockwell, Robert, and Donka Minkova. 1999. Explanations of Sound Change: Contradictions between dialect data and theories of chain shifting. Leeds Studies in English XXX:83-102. Minkova 1999.pdf

Stockwell, Robert, and Donka Minkova. 1997. On drifts and shifts. Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, 31:283-303.

Stockwell, Robert. 1972. Problems in the interpretation of the Great Vowel Shift. In M. Estellie Smith, Ed., Studies in Linguistics in Honor of George Trager. Mouton: The Hague, Paris. pp. 344-362. 1972.pdf

RIP Dr Robert Stockwell

I am very sorry to hear this news. RIP Robert Stockwell…

From the UCLA Linguistics Web site (


Our founding chair, Robert Stockwell, passed away October 28, 2012, following a long illness.

Bob was born June 12, 1925, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was educated at the University of Virginia, where he received a B.A. in English and Greek in 1946, an M.A. in English in 1949, and a Ph.D. in English Philology in 1952. He worked from 1952 to 1956 School of Languages of the Foreign Service Institute, where he developed highly effective pedagogical materials, grounded in linguistic theory, for the teaching of Spanish. Bob came to UCLA as an Assistant Professor in the English Department in 1956. He soon was marshaling the resources for an effective linguistics program: the Interdepartmental Program in linguistics was approved in 1960, followed by the Center for Research in Languages and Linguistics in 1963 and then full department status in 1966 — the same year Bob was promoted to Full Professor. For many years Bob served as the new department’s chair.

The department proved to be an intellectually very lively place, one to which strong faculty were readily attracted. With a number of important recruitments, the department rose in only a few years to scholarly eminence and thence to a very high national program ranking. Bob was also in the thick of the new department’s research activities, notably in his coauthorship of The Major Syntactic Structures of English (1973), with Paul Schachter and Barbara Partee, and also in his longstanding work (much of it with his colleague and later spouse Donka Minkova, UCLA English Department) on the history of English. As his health declined during the last few years we saw little of Bob, but the strong academic culture of the department he left behind has remained as an attestation of his work.

%d bloggers like this: