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A tipping point in dialect obsolescence? Change across the generations in Lerwick, Shetland

Smith, Jennifer and Durham, Mercedes 2011. A tipping point in dialect obsolescence? Change across the generations in Lerwick, Shetland. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15 (2) , pp. 197-225. 10.1111/j.1467-9841.2011.00479.x

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Abstract

The dialect spoken in the Shetland Islands is one of the most distinctive in the British Isles. However, there are claims that this variety is rapidly disappearing, with local forms replaced by more standard variants in the younger generations. In this paper we test these claims through a quantitative analysis of variable forms across three generations of speakers from the main town of Lerwick. We target six variables: two lexical, two morphosyntactic and two phonetic/phonological. Our results show that there is decline in use of the local forms across all six variables. Closer analysis of individual use reveals that the older age cohort form a linguistically homogeneous group. In contrast, the younger speakers form a heterogeneous group: half of the younger speakers have high rates of the local forms, while the other half uses the standard variants near-categorically. We suggest that these results may pinpoint the locus of rapid obsolescence in this traditionally relic dialect area.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Lerwick; Shetland dialect; obsolescence; change
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 1360-6441
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 06:48
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/38672

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