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Friday, October 11 • 10:30am - 10:55am
Bleaman: Linguistic prescriptivism, social conservatism, and phonetic drift in language maintenance communities

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Linguistic prescriptivism, social conservatism, and phonetic drift in language maintenance communities

​This talk investigates the effects of language planning on phonetic variation in Yiddish, a minority language spoken in New York by two communities committed to its maintenance: (1) Yiddishists, a small CofP in which prescriptive standards are highly valued; (2) Hasidic Jews, a large speech community that maintains Yiddish without emphasis on standardization. An analysis of release burst duration in word-initial stops finds that Yiddishists, who are English-dominant, exhibit longer (more English-like) bursts than do Hasidim. The community effect supports the hypothesis that planning may play only a minor role in constraining variation. However, this picture is complicated by the results of a study of variable number agreement, in which Yiddishists are more linguistically conservative.
Session abstract: What’s so standard about standards?
Standard language ideology (SLI) is a topic ripe for new cross-cultural comparisons, as notions of standard and prestige have been central to sociolinguistic theorizing (Meyerhoff 2019). Cheshire observes that ‘variationists have worked almost exclusively on languages that have been heavily standardized, so the potential influence of [SLI] on the selection of variables […] has been high’ (2005:87). Further, historically atypical standardized national languages of urban elites in modern stratified societies have entrenched hierarchical views of variation, that are grounded in a functional model and asymmetric power relations (e.g. Rickford 1986). These biases should be addressed if we are to build sociolinguistic universals (Guy & Adli 2019). This session continues the discussion by examining underrepresented communities where SLI is realized in different ways, or not at all. Six original research papers will explore this topic around the world, and a discussant presentation will contextualize the panel’s observations.​​​


Isaac L. Bleaman

University of California Berkeley

Friday October 11, 2019 10:30am - 10:55am PDT
EMU Gumwood
  S: What's so standard about standards?