Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

'Live Free or Die' as a linguistic principle

Naomi Nagy

In this paper, patterns of language variation and change in a rural region are examined. The geographic focus is the rural state of New Hampshire (NH) and eastern Massachusetts (MA), including Boston. With respect to two phonological variables, the regions of NH near Boston are not succumbing to Boston speech patterns. The two variables under consideration are (1) the existence of low central /a/ distinct from low back /å/ and (2) the merger of several front vowels before /r/. The data has been collected via written surveys from 448 lifetime residents of NH and MA in 1998-99. Responses from the two states are contrasted for a subset of the phonological queries, showing the maintenance of a distinct rural NH dialect. In at least one aspect, NH's dialect is in the process of diverging further from the neighboring Boston dialect. A social explanation is offered: the lack of appeal to NH residents of the "big city" life offered by Boston.

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