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Thursday, October 10 • 3:20pm - 3:45pm
Palakurthy: The sounds of contemporary Diné Bizaad (Navajo)

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The Sounds of Contemporary Diné Bizaad (Navajo)

​Many studies have documented an increase in variation and frequency of change in endangered language speech communities. However, sociophonetic documentation of specific changes in minority languages is limited, and less is known about the social patterning of variation and change in these contexts. Based on analyses of data drawn from 51 interviews with bilingual speakers of English and Diné Bizaad (Navajo)—an endangered Native American language spoken in the present-day North American Southwest— this talk discusses the contemporary status of three variable features in the language: aspirated stops, lateral affricates, and sibilant harmony. Sociophonetic analyses will be presented for each feature, as well as discussions of the evidence for change. Based on these studies, I show that Diné Bizaad features are not uniformly becoming more variable or significantly changing, results that contribute to what we know about the motivations for, and diffusion of, sound change in endangered languages.

Session abstract: Variation in Second and Heritage Language Speech: Cross-linguistic Perspectives

This session brings together scholars working on the acquisition of sociolinguistic variation in a variety of non-dominant languages. The first paper outlines how such studies can contribute to sociolinguistic theory. The next papers examine the influence of Indonesian on children’s Javanese and the influence of English and communication networks on Diné Bizaad (Navajo). Other studies focus on the acquisition of sociolinguistic competence by U.S. students in France and the acquisition of the constraints on object deletion in Mandarin. The final study examines the (non)-acquisition of a socially stigmatized variant by Spanish L1 speakers in Catalonia. Taken together, the papers in this session illustrate the contributions to our understanding of the effects of language contact on second and heritage languages and to identifying the types of linguistic and social factors that are common across contexts or pairs of languages and those that are specific to particular languages or social contexts.​​​


Kayla Palakurthy

Visiting Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University

Thursday October 10, 2019 3:20pm - 3:45pm PDT
EMU Gumwood