What is the word or phrase which best characterizes the year 2012? What expression most reflects the ideas, events, and themes which have occupied the English-speaking world, especially North America?
Each year since 1990, the American Dialect Society has chosen a word of the year at its annual meeting. We’ll do it again in January in Boston, Massachusetts, and we’re asking for your word-of-the-year nominations.
Nominations can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeted to the Twitter user name @americandialect or using the hashtag #woty12, or they can be posted on our Facebook page.
They will be considered for the American Dialect Society’s 23rd annual word-of-the-year vote, the longest-running vote of its kind in the world and the word-of-the-year event up to which all word-of-the-year votes lead.
Formal nominations will be made on at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, January 3, and the final vote will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, January 4, both at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. Both events are open to the public and press.
The best “word of the year” candidates will be:
— demonstrably new or newly popular in 2012
— widely and/or prominently used in 2012
— indicative or reflective of the popular discourse
— not a peeve or a complaint about overuse or misuse
Multi-word compounds or phrases that act as stand-alone lexical items are also welcomed.
Sub-categories for “word of the year” include most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed.
Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item” — not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
The vote is informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words and language, but it is far from a solemn occasion.
Members in the 123-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, authors, editors, professors, university students, and independent scholars.
In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.
This is the final list of abstracts for the 2013 American Dialect Society Annual Meeting in Boston.
Jon Bakos (Oklahoma State University)
Bringing the thunder: A first look at the vowel system of Oklahoma
This paper describes the current vowel system of Oklahoma, using recently collected data from the Research on the Dialects of English in Oklahoma (RODEO) project. This presentation will examine the wordlist and reading passage tasks from 25 Oklahoman RODEO subjects.
This paper will show Oklahoman empathy for Southern dialect practices, but without universal use of them. Most interviewed respondents employ Southern features like the pin/pen merger and fronting of /u/, but Oklahomans appear reluctant to use socially emblematic Southern features in formal contexts. This paper will suggest reasons for these differences and discuss the Oklahoma system as a whole.
Charles Boberg (McGill University)
Continental Divide: the U.S.-Canada border in North American English
This paper examines the current linguistic status of the U.S.-Canada boundary, as well as regional differences between western and eastern Canada, with a new set of data on variation in vocabulary, phonemic incidence and spelling from a questionnaire completed by 101 participants in 2012: 34 Americans and 67 Canadians. The biggest national difference arises in spelling (e.g., American center and color v. Canadian centre and colour). Mean differences in vocabulary (soda v. pop; faucet v. tap, etc.) and phonemic incidence (different pronunciations of words) are comparatively small. Comparisons with previous reports on these variables demonstrate several changes in progress.
David Bowie (University of Alaska Anchorage)
Jessa Joehnk (Middlebury College)
Peter Kudenov (University of Alaska Anchorage)
Regional dialect diversity in south-central Alaska
English-speaking settlement is relatively recent in Alaska, but with regional differences in settlement patterns. Therefore, an investigation into regional linguistic differences can give insight into founder effects versus dialect leveling. We recorded 30 Alaskans reading “Comma gets a cure” and a word list, and took midpoint measurements of the canonical vowels of English for each speaker. We found that Alaskans generally participate in the California Shift, but individuals from Anchorage exhibit such features more strongly and consistently than others. We suggest that dialect leveling has occurred in south-central Alaska, with founder effects possibly having been masked in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Kathryn Campbell-Kibler (The Ohio State University)
Amber Torelli (The Ohio State University)
“Bitch, I’m from Cleveland, you have the accent”: Tracking enregisterment on Twitter
Campbell-Kibler (2012) suggested that the Inland North in Ohio is becoming enregistered as the “Cleveland” or “northern” accent, but is contested. The current paper tests and extends this work, analyzing spontaneous commentary in 722 Tweets mentioning “accent” and Ohio, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati or Dayton. Overall, the data present a fractured view, with some Tweeters perceiving Ohio speech as accented, others expressing ambivalence and still others adhering to the “non-accent” ideology. Finally, we note the strong presence of African Americans in this data, suggesting a need for work on African American perceptual dialectology.
Katie Carmichael (The Ohio State University)
R-lessness in Greate(r) New O(r)leans
New Orleans has become more r-ful over time (Reinecke 1951; Brennan 1983; Mucciaccio 2009), although variable r-lessness is still common in the blue collar suburb of Chalmette. Hurricane Katrina caused many Chalmatians to relocate to wealthy, r-ful suburbs on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain (Lasley 2012). Younger Chalmatians-both those who live in Chalmette Post-Katrina and those who have since relocated to the Northshore-are more r-ful than older speakers, however there is no difference in levels of r-fulness between Chalmette and Northshore Chalmatians. Interview commentary suggests that r-lessness is used by Northshore Chalmatians to express ties to Chalmette.
Phillip M. Carter (Florida International University)
Andrew Lynch (University of Miami)
David Neal (Empirica Research, University of Miami)
Sociolinguistic and social psychological motivation for loss: Mapping the perception of Spanish and English among Miami Latinos
This study applies the matched-guise technique, introduced by Lambert et al. (1960), to the study of Spanish/English bilingualism in metropolitan Miami.180 participants listened to four speakers in two guises (Spanish and English) and rated each on a 7-point Likert-scale for a range of personal characteristics. They then answered hypothetical questions about each speaker’s estimated income, profession, and family history. Results show complex interactions between listener ethnicity, language perception, and political ideology. Surprisingly, all participants showed an implicit preference for the English guises for a majority of characteristics. This was true even for Latinos who at the explicit level valued bilingualism.
Patricia Cukor-Avila (University of North Texas)
Lisa Jeon (University of North Texas)
Patricia C. Rector (University of North Texas)
“Texas twang” and “Southern drawl”: How Texans perceive regional variation from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley
Perceptual dialectology studies of the U.S. suggest Texas is a homogeneous speech community. Recent perceptual dialectology research in Texas, however, suggests Texans perceive both distinct and overlapping dialect areas within the state and they have similar opinions about the variety spoken in those areas. This study analyzes the geospatial distinction Texans perceive between Drawl and Twang and how their perceptions correlate geographically with two other perceptual categories, Southern and Country. Correlation tests between demographic information and the perceptual data also reveal how respondents’ perceptions are stratified by sex, age, ethnicity, time spent living in Texas, and self-identification as “Texan.”
Aaron Dinkin (Swarthmore College)
Changing roles of regional boundaries and isoglosses
The present-day southern and eastern boundaries of the Northern Cities shift match early settlement patterns; in mid-20th century dialectology the same geographical boundaries were isoglosses for many now-obsolete lexical variables. Two present-day lexical variables in New York State—soda/pop and penultimate secondary stress in elementary—exhibit isoglosses that match boundaries of culturally recognizable regions such as “Upstate”, but don’t match current phonetic isoglosses. I hypothesize that lexical variables develop along boundaries that are salient when they originate, but phonetic features developing along the same boundaries may become evident only later: “yesterday’s lexical isoglosses are tomorrow’s phonetic isoglosses”.
Stefan Dollinger (UBC Vancouver)
Taking on take up: the 49 th parallel as a persisting linguistic isogloss
This talk explores a semantic variable with the lexical item “take up”, in the meaning of ‘going over the correct answers for a test/exam/quiz’. The meaning is undocumented in non-Canadian sources, but Canadian sources do not propose a Canadian status. A written questionnaire study on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border reveals that the meaning is wide-spread in Canada, but virtually unknown in the USA. Within Canada, Ontario is its location of origin. The meaning appears to be a Canadian innovation that is currently spreading across Canada, thus reinforcing the international border as a semantic isogloss that is sensitive to subtle denotational differentiation.
David Durian (College of Dupage)
On the inception and development of the Canadian Shift in the Midland: Some real and apparent time observations
In this paper, we trace the development of the Canadian Shift in the US Midland back to its inception, using a mix of both real and apparent time data collected in the Columbus, OH. We do so via statistical analysis of instrumentally recorded normalized format data collected across 4 generations of speakers. A total of 62 speakers, born between 1896 and 1991, comprise this data set. Our analysis is presented as a series of linear mixed effects regression (lmer) analyses that allow us to watch the Canadian Shift develop and unfold in real and apparent time in our data.
Maeve Eberhardt (University of Vermont)
Intraspeaker variation, stancetaking, and post-vocalic /r/ on “Say Yes to the Dress”
In sociolinguistic research, explanations of intraspeaker variation vary widely. I test the hypothesis that intraspeaker variation is rooted in interactional stancetaking by examining post-vocalic /r/ among 5 bridal consultants on the reality “docusoap” Say Yes to the Dress, which focuses on wedding gown sales in a NYC bridal salon. Previous work shows that consultants’ use of post-vocalic /r/ correlates with the bride’s dress budget. Qualitative analyses suggest speaker choices are connected to stances taken at the moment of speaking. The current paper tests this quantitatively, tracking consultants’ use of /r/, to see if this variation correlates with specific stance moves.
Grant Eckstein (University of California, Davis)
Dan Villarreal (University of California, Davis)
LDS Scripture-Speech: Religious Practice and Sociophonetic Variation
This study responds to the relative lack of sociolinguistic research using religion as a social factor. In particular, we investigate a religion-specific prosodic observation by describing and examining LDS scripture-speech, a unique speech genre associated with the reading of scripture by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). We analyze the speech of selected active LDS speakers while reading a secular passage and a scripture passage for the prosodic features of pitch, amplitude, and duration. We consider the ways in which LDS members adopt scripture-speech and potentially index their religious identity via this speech genre.
Jack Grieve (Aston University)
Costanza Asnaghi (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)
A Lexical Dialect Survey of American English Using Site-Restricted Web Searches
This paper presents the results of an analysis of regional lexical variation in American English based on data collected through site-restricted web searches using Google. This new method for quickly gathering dialect data is first introduced and evaluated by mapping lexical alternation variables with known distributions in American English. The results of a larger lexical dialect survey are then presented, including the results of an aggregated analysis that identifies the most common patterns of regional lexical variation in Modern American English.
Joan Houston Hall (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Luanne von Schneidemesser (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Ongoing work on the Dictionary of American Regional English
Although DARE has reached Z, the work is not finished. We will present an overview of volume VI, due out in January 2013 with its maps, indexes, and data, and show a short preview of the digital edition, scheduled for late 2013. New fieldwork has been proposed to test an online survey to investigate how American English has changed over the last half-century. In addition, DARE‘s original 1,843 audio recordings will be made widely available for use by scholars after the removal of all personal information is completed, planned for 2014.
Kirk Hazen (West Virginia University)
Finding the forest among the trees: Multiple variables for multiple speakers
Traditionally, variables in regional dialectology and variationist analysis have been analyzed individually, allowing researchers to consider both linguistic and social factors within variables, but questions about cross-variable comparisons remain. This paper employs completed studies to determine how speakers coordinate their cross-variable patterns and provides the opportunity to determine whether variables pattern similarly across speakers. One benefit of cross-variable analysis is that the social categories formed a priori can be reconfigured based on observable distinctions. This approach also creates the opportunity to develop a scalar index of vernacularity.
Mary Kohn (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Charlie Farrington (University of Oregon)
‘Girls say I sound country’: Correlating African American metalinguistic awareness with vowel production
We analyze the speech of 22 African Americans from Piedmont, North Carolina, using self-defined language descriptions to explore the relationship between linguistic use and linguistic self-awareness. Speakers were asked questions that focused on metalinguistic awareness, including whether they speak a non-standard dialect. Results indicate that speakers who self-describe as sounding country or non-standard have Southern Vowel Shift features while speakers who self-describe as sounding white, standard, or distance themselves from non-standard speech show no evidence of Southern Shifting. Speakers who do not self-categorize show variable patterns. These data indicate that speakers self-categorize regionality and ethnicity based in part on vowel patterns.
William A. Kretzschmar, Jr. (University of Georgia and University of Oulu)
Ilkka Juuso (University of Oulu)
C. Thomas Bailey (University of Georgia)
Computer simulation of dialect feature diffusion
Computer simulation is the only practical way to model diffusion. This paper describes the use of cellular automata to model dialect feature diffusion as the adaptive aspect of the complex system of speech. Throughout hundreds of iterations that correspond to the daily interaction of speakers across time, we can watch regional distributional patterns emerge as a consequence of simple update rules. The key feature of our simulations is validation with respect to distributions known to occur in survey data. Our successful simulation confirms our complex systems approach, and also suggests how we can simulate features among different social groups.
Carolyn McCaskill, Gallaudet University
Ceil Lucas, Gallaudet University
Robert Bayley, University of California, Davis
Joseph Hill, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
The intersection of African American English and Black American Sign Language
This presentation reports on the intersection of African American English (AAE) and a variety of American Sign Language (ASL) used by Black signers and known as Black ASL. Based on an extensive videotaped corpus collected from 96 African American signers in the southern United States, we explore the geographical and social conditions that led to the development of Black ASL.Young Black signers spontaneously produce and discuss words and phrases from AAE that have made their way into Black ASL. These AAE features in Black ASL show the effects of mainstreaming programs, including contact with hearing AAE speakers, and an increased focus on the learning of spoken English.
Ann Marie Olivo (Rice University)
Christian Koops (University of New Mexico)
Lowering of upgliding vowels in New York City English
We examine the phonologically parallel lowering of the non-low upgliding vowels /i, e, u, o/ in the variety of New York City English (NYCE) spoken by three generations of native Long Islanders. For each for the four vowels, lowering is restricted to word-final, open syllables. The mid vowels, especially /e/, show a larger split between lowering and non-lowering contexts than the high vowels. We go on to explore the social distribution and historical trajectory of this feature, as well as how lowering co-varies with the presence of other, better documented traditional NYCE features such as vocalization of coda-/ɹ/ and backing of /aɪ/.
Anastasia Nylund (Georgetown University)
Perceptual dialectology across social and geographic borders: Language awareness among residents of Washington, DC
Previous studies of areas neighboring Washington, DC, attribute receding Southern features to orientation to ‘cosmopolitan’ cities including DC. As DC becomes ‘less Southern’, how do residents describe their own speech and social correlates of ‘accent’? Evidence from sociolinguistic interviews and a survey suggests that (a) Dialect awareness is largely non-specific; DC is seen as ‘cosmopolitan’ and surrounded by ‘accented’ areas; (b) African Americans are viewed as ‘accented’ by non-AAs; (c) African Americans reject ideas of race-linked dialect difference as essentialist. This paper contributes to our understanding of language awareness in marginal communities and the process of enregisterment in progress.
Robert Podesva (Stanford University)
Jeremy Calder (Stanford University)
Hsin-Chang Chen (Stanford University)
Annette D’Onofrio (Stanford University)
Isla Flores-Bayer (Stanford University)
Seung Kyung Kim (Stanford University)
Janneke Van Hofwegen (Stanford University)
The Status of the California Vowel Shift in a Non-Coastal, Non-Urban Community
This study investigates three dimensions of the California Vowel Shift (CVS) — fronting of back vowels, nasal pattern of TRAP, and LOT-THOUGHT merger — in 32 speakers from Shasta County, California, a Northern, inland community. While all speakers participate in the shift, younger speakers show more advanced patterns. Additionally, speaker gender and orientation to town versus country condition the backing of TRAP. Data suggest that as the CVS spreads from urban centers, certain CVS features retain associations with the metropolis while others become more widespread indices of California authenticity. Shasta County speakers use this difference to negotiate non-urban, but nevertheless Californian, identities.
Jeffrey Reaser (North Carolina State University)
Using professional development webinars to increase teachers’ linguistic knowledge
While it has been acknowledged that teachers ought to be sociolinguistically aware, pre-service teacher education programs typically leave them without sophisticated knowledge about language variation. This paper describes the construction and implementation of a professional development webinar for in-service teachers to learn about sociolinguistic information and become proficient in teaching the Voice of North Carolina dialect awareness curriculum. The teachers’ reactions to the webinar are also examined, including the connections they made between sociolinguistic information and their classrooms. Finally, information from follow up with webinar participants reveals the effects of the experience on teachers and their fall 2011 teaching.
Jennifer Renn (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Catherine Darrow (Abt Associates)
David Dickinson (Vanderbilt University)
An Analysis of Language Use by African American Preschool Teachers
While caregiver and peer language have been linked to children’s linguistic development, little work has considered teacher language as an early influence. To investigate this question, this paper examines teacher language from Head Start classrooms in the southeastern U.S. Language samples from two contexts that differed in formality were collected from 44 African American teachers. Results show that teachers used more complex syntactic constructions and more total words in the more formal setting, but dialect density did not differ significantly. Subsequent analyses suggest that while measures of teacher complexity were linked to growth in children’s language, teacher vernacularity was not.
Nicole Rosen (University of Lethbridge)
Latter-day Saints as a linguistic enclave in southern Alberta
Using the Southern Alberta Corpus of English (Rosen 2012), I investigate two Canadian dialect features: the raising of /æ/ before /g/, and the Canadian shift (Boberg 2008, 2010) among Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and non-LDS living in Southern Alberta. Results show that LDS are not participating in the distinguishing Canadian changes in the same way as other Canadians, supporting Meechan (1998) and showing that the LDS form a linguistic enclave within Southern Alberta.
Cara Shousterman (New York University)
Speaking English in Spanish Harlem: Dialect Change in Puerto Rican English
While much research in the field of social dialectology has focused on African American English and to a lesser extent Puerto Rican English, the interaction between these two nonstandard dialects remains relatively under-investigated. The current study explores how community change is reflected in language, by examining the English of U.S-born Puerto Rican-identified speakers across several generations who live in East Harlem and report varying amounts of contact with African Americans. This research offers perspective on how and why urban dialects change over time by looking at prosodic rhythm-measured using the Pairwise Variability Index–across different generations of speakers.
Walt Wolfram (North Carolina State University)
Hayley Heaton (University of Michigan),
Amanda Eads (North Carolina State University)
Lebanese English in the American South: Dialect accommodation and the recession of substrate.
A cohesive Lebanese community has existed in North Carolina for over a century, raising issues about the role of substrate features and the accommodation of Southern English. The acoustic analysis of vowel systems, syllable timing, and voice-onset timing (VOT) along with the analysis of selected morphosyntactic analyses demonstrates that Lebanese born in North Carolina do not maintain substrate influence. Selected aspects of Southern vowels are accommodated, but accommodation avoids socially stigmatized grammatical features. The pattern, which contrasts with other Southern ethnolinguistic repertoires, is explained in terms of community values that underscore upward mobility and educational and social status achievement.
Yuri Yerastov (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania)
Transitive be perfect in North America: A comparative corpus study
In Canadian English, as well as some dialects of American English, there occurs a transitive be perfect construction, limited to three participles only, e.g. I’m done dinner, I’m finished my homework, I’m started this project. This paper tracks the geographical distribution of the construction in Canada and the US through a comparative corpus study of North American news media. The results show that the done dinner construction is widespread in Canadian English, and marginal in American English, and that it is distributed proportionate to population size across Canada.