Archival oral histories provide sociolinguists with invaluable empirical insight, particularly with respect to studying vernaculars of the past. Because the goal of the oral history methodology is to capture authentic, first-person accounts, the recordings are comparable to sociolinguistic interviews. In this audio feature, the Farm Work and Farm Life Since 1890 Oral History project, which contains interviews with elderly farmers in Ontario, Canada, born between 1890 and 1920, is used to exemplify the utility of oral histories, particularly for variationist sociolinguists. The audio feature first demonstrates the parallels between sociolinguistic interviews and oral histories: both exhibit Labovian “casual speech” and high-emotive topics, both diminish the role of the interviewer, and, perhaps most importantly for variationist sociolinguists, both contain sociolinguistic variation. The remainder of the audio feature highlights some of this variation, including negative concord, was/were variation, and discourse like, and closes with a discussion of two revelations about the sociohistorical and sociolinguistic nature of the speech communities examined.
Oral Histories as a Window to Sociolinguistic History and Language History: Exploring Earlier Ontario English with the Farm Work and Farm Life Since 1890 Oral History Collection
Derek Denis; Oral Histories as a Window to Sociolinguistic History and Language History: Exploring Earlier Ontario English with the Farm Work and Farm Life Since 1890 Oral History Collection. American Speech 1 November 2016; 91 (4): 513–516. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-4153153
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