Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Enclave, endangered, or simply stable? Explaining the Western Pennsylvania vowel system.

Johnstone, Barbara and Kiesling, Scott F (2009) Enclave, endangered, or simply stable? Explaining the Western Pennsylvania vowel system. In: New Ways of Analyzing Variation 38, 22 October 2009 - 25 October 2009, Ottawa, Ontario.

Available under License : See the attached license file.

Download (197kB) | Preview
[img] Plain Text (licence)
Available under License : See the attached license file.

Download (1kB)


One generalization that can be made about North American dialects of English is that they are changing, in some cases rapidly (Labov, Ash, and Boberg 2006:304). Also according to the Atlas of North American English (ANAE), however, the Western Pennsylvania (WPA) variety is an exception, relatively stable against a backdrop of dramatic change occurring nearby. Sociolinguists are primarily interested in change, so we have tended to pay relatively little attention to its counterpart. But even if stability appears to be the exception rather than the rule in the history of spoken language, a full account of language variation and change requires exploring the factors that favor stability as well as those that drive change. This study first tests ANAE’s claim about the the stability of the WPA variety, using a much larger dataset. Analysis of vowel formant measures from sociolinguistic interviews with 52 Anglo-American speakers from the Pittsburgh area generally confirms ANAE’s findings both about the quality of WPA vowels and about their stability across apparent time, which is causing this variety to become increasingly different from those of neigboring dialect areas. To account for this, we propose demographic reasons including population loss and the lack of large-scale in-migration, as well as ideological reasons including geographic exceptionalism that leads WPA speakers not to expect their accent to be like others’. Stability is often discussed in the context of enclave and/or endangered dialects, where competition from other varieties and the lack of a critical mass of speakers means that variation may arise or acquire social meaning (eg. Dorian 1989). Since WPA is neither an enclave nor endangered, at least in the short term, our study suggests more generally that we need to think about other contexts for stability.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Johnstone, Barbara
Kiesling, Scott Fkiesling@pitt.eduKIESLING0000-0003-4954-1038
Date: October 2009
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Event Title: New Ways of Analyzing Variation 38
Event Dates: 22 October 2009 - 25 October 2009
Event Type: Conference
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Refereed: Yes
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2017 17:59
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2020 19:10


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item