Oat and a boat : diphthongs and identity in post-industrial Cape Breton

Gardner, Matthew Hunt (2010) Oat and a boat : diphthongs and identity in post-industrial Cape Breton. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The following paper examines the use of /aʊ/ variation by high school age speakers in Industrial Cape Breton, on Canada's east coast - a community undergoing rapid social change and for which there exists a stigmatized local vernacular. I suggest that these high school students construct their individual and group identities with reference to local norms and broader archetypes from popular culture. Through an qualitative ethnographic and quantitative sociophonetic investigation of Riverview Rural High School, this paper examines the sociolinguistic realities of archetypal social groups like "jocks" (i.e. keepers of the institution), "burnouts" (i.e. rebels against the institution), and "nerds" (i.e those that define themselves as neither of the two), which appear consistently in both sociolinguistic enquiries and public/popular representations of high school culture. -- In Cape Breton, the standard Canadian pronunciation of /aw/ before tautosyllabic voiceless consonants (i.e. with a mid-central nucleus) competes with both a traditional and an incoming form (with a mid-back and a mid-front nucleus, respectively) (cf. Chambers, 1973; 2006; Hung et al. 1993; Boberg, 2008). My hypothesis marks self-identified "cafeteria people", similar to Eckert's (1989; 2000) "jocks", as the leaders in the use of the incoming or the standard /aw/ pronunciation. "Cafeteria people" and "smokers" (similar to Eckert's "burnouts") are the most significant and numerous of the various social groups at Riverview. They also represent the two extremities of the social spectrum at the school. A small group of "nerds" (cf. Bucholtz, 1999) at the school are the self-professed "gamers", who brag about their enjoyment of non-mainstream culture and disinterest in broad or mainstream cultural practices. -- A multivariate analysis of data (N=1080) taken from sociolinguistic interviews with 18 students, stratified by gender and three social groups, and coded for both social and linguistic factors, shows the "gamers" leading the use of the standard Canadian form and "smokers" and males leading the use of the incoming non-standard form, while the "cafeteria people" and women defy sociolinguistic expectations and lead the use of the traditional nonstandard form.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8889
Item ID: 8889
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 99-111).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Linguistics
Date: 2010
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Cape Breton Island (N.S.)
Library of Congress Subject Heading: English language--Dialects--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island; English language--Diphthongs; High school students--Social conditions; High school students--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island--Social life and customs; Sociolinguistics--Nova Scotia--Cape Breton Island

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