This study considers the dynamic trajectory of the back-vowel fronting of the BOOT and BOAT vowels for 27 speakers in a unique, longstanding context of a substantive, tri-ethnic contact situation involving American Indians, European Americans, and African Americans over three disparate generations in Robeson County, North Carolina. The results indicate that the earlier status of Lumbee English fronting united them with the African American vowel system, particularly for the BOOT vowel, but that more recent generations have shifted towards alignment with European American speakers. Given the biracial Southeastern U.S. that historically identified Lumbee Indians as “free persons of color” and the persistent skepticism about the Lumbee Indians as merely a mixed group of European Americans and African Americans, the movement away from the African American pattern towards the European American pattern was interpreted as a case of oppositional identity in which Lumbee Indians disassociate themselves from African American vowel norms in subtle but socially meaningful ways.
Oppositional Identity and Back-Vowel Fronting in a Tri-ethnic Context: The Case of Lumbee English
Marie Bissell is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Linguistics at The Ohio State University. She previously received her M.A. in English (Linguistics) from North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on sociophonetic aspects of sound change, especially with respect to vowels, in the realms of both production and perception. More broadly, she is interested in applying quantitative methods to questions about dialectology and language change. Email: email@example.com.
Walt Wolfram is William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor at North Carolina State University, where he also directs the North Carolina Language and Life Project. He has pioneered research on social and ethnic dialects since the 1960s and published more than 20 books and over 300 articles, including more than 25 papers and reviews in American Speech. He is currently focused on the application of sociolinguistic information for the public. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marie Bissell, Walt Wolfram; Oppositional Identity and Back-Vowel Fronting in a Tri-ethnic Context: The Case of Lumbee English. American Speech 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-9116251
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