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A tipping point in dialect obsolescence? Change across the generations in Lerwick, Shetland

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Smith, Jennifer; Durham, Mercedes

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Abstract "The dialect spoken in the Shetland Islands is one of the most distinctive in the British Isles. However, there are claims that this variety is rapidly disappearing, with local forms replaced by more standard variants in the younger generations. In this paper we test these claims through a quantitative analysis of variable forms across three generations of speakers from the main town of Lerwick. We target six variables: two lexical, two morphosyntactic and two phonetic/phonological. Our results show that there is decline in use of the local forms across all six variables. Closer analysis of individual use reveals that the older age cohort form a linguistically homogeneous group. In contrast, the younger speakers form a heterogeneous group: half of the younger speakers have high rates of the local forms, while the other half use the standard variants near-categorically. We suggest that these results may pinpoint the locus of rapid obsolescence in this traditionally relic dialect area." [author's abstract]
Classification Sociology of Communication, Sociology of Language, Sociolinguistics
Document language English
Publication Year 2011
Page/Pages p. 197-225
Journal Journal of Sociolinguistics, 15 (2011) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)