The current state of /L/ allophony in St. John's English

Pierson, Rosanna (2016) The current state of /L/ allophony in St. John's English. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (728kB)


This project examines the use and evaluation of light post-vocalic /l/ in St. John's, Newfoundland. The city, which was primarily settled by the Irish, traditionally did not conform to the Standard Canadian pattern of /l/ allophony. That is, it was reported to have light /l/ in all positions, in contrast to Canadian English, which has dark /l/ in codas and light /l/ in onsets (Clarke 2012). There have been, however, several major social and economic changes in Newfoundland since the mid-twentieth century, which have impacted local dialects (Clarke 2010). In terms of postvocalic /l/, data collected by Clarke in St. John's in the 1980s shows that the light variant is declining in use and being replaced by the dark variant, and that little overt awareness is accompanying this change (2012). This study addresses the decline and awareness of this feature, through production and perception experiments, respectively. This work follows that of Clarke in that it looks at younger age groups that have been born since Clarke's study was conducted in the early 1980s. The results of these experiments suggest that the light post-vocalic /l/ has continued its decline in St. John's English, and that the dark variant is a stable norm. In fact, it is light /l/ in initial position that is experiencing social variation, in that younger speakers are using darker /l/s in this position than their older counterparts. Women, though they display a more standard /l/ allophony pattern overall than men, also show more dramatic initial-/l/ darkening in apparent time. Additionally, there is a significant style shift between word list and interview tasks in this position. The perception experiment shows that there is awareness and stigma associated with the light variant in coda, which could extend to light /l/s in general.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 12078
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 59-61).
Keywords: Newfoundland English, Sociophonetics, Light /l/, /l/ allophony
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Linguistics
Date: January 2016
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's
Library of Congress Subject Heading: English language--Dialects--Newfoundland and Labrador--St. John's; English language—Dialects—Canada; English language--Dialects--Phonetics; Allophones

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics