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On the hunt for obsolescing grammatical dialect features

Thursday 15 February 2024, 3.00PM

Speaker(s): Laura Rupp (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

On Thursday 15th February, Laura Rupp (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) will present research on "On the hunt for obsolescing grammatical dialect features".

Talk: On the hunt for obsolescing grammatical dialect features
Britain (2008: 1) noted: “In studying language change, variationists are, naturally perhaps,  more interested in the new innovative form than in the conservative one”. However, there has  been a modest body of research that has studied traditional dialect features that are under  threat as a result of all kinds of contemporary changes, mobility etc. (Schilling-Estes &  Wolfram 1999; Van Herk & Childs 2014; Jankowski & Tagliamonte 2017; Rupp &  Tagliamonte 2022, amongst others). These studies have documented obsolescing features but  also shown that they may not simply fade away but undergo various trajectories of decline; for example, with a feature retreating to contexts in which it was historically favoured or  developing new social or discourse-pragmatic meanings. Further, they have demonstrated  that obsolescing features may supply a piece to a historical linguistic puzzle. In this way,  obsolescing features may provide a window on processes of language change more generally. In my talk I will illustrate with a grammatical construction that has been in decline in English  dialects: double demonstratives of the type DEM T/HERE NP, as in (1a-d): 

(1a) One day, we had this here snowstorm down here … (dhinds, age 77, Ontario, Canada;  Ontario English Dialects Project) 

(1b) She can sit on- that there trolly and go up. (G. Walton, age 87, York, UK; ROOTS  corpus) 

(1c) And there was these here big blokes on either side. (ithom, age 67, Devon, UK;  ROOTS corpus) 

(1d) They used to all be them there little tiny ones like that. (NTT_006, age 81,  Nottingham, UK; Freiburg Corpus of English Dialects) 

Together with Sali Tagliamonte I have developed a method for studying obsolescent  grammatical dialect features, from identifying to documenting to analyzing and interpreting  them (Tagliamonte & Rupp 2022). In the British Academy Visiting Fellowship project “Old  wine in new bottles: Tracing the pathways of dialect death and rebirth” (2023-2024) I will, in  collaboration with Karen Corrigan, deploy these methods to probe obsolescing grammatical  dialect features in three larger-scale corpora, amongst which the Diachronic Electronic  Corpus of Tyneside ENGLISH (DECTE; Corrigan et al. 2012). I will share with the audience  grammatical features that we have been studying in DECTE thus far, for example ‘a one’. 

(2) If you wanted a casual coat you can get a one there today (male, age 61-70) 

I would appreciate from the audience input regarding any other receding grammatical forms  that we can study for our British Academy project before they disappear from English. 

“Perhaps this knowledge will also lead us to appreciate the dying forms when we hear them  — precious artefacts of linguistic history left in the linguistic archaeology of rural speech.”  (Jankowski & Tagliamonte 2022)  

The talk will take place at 3pm, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end. There will also be an informal drinks reception afterwards in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science (Deborah Hines Room, 2nd floor). Everyone is welcome!

Location: BS/005