While the retraction of TRAP is found throughout the American West (Fridland et al. 2016), it is associated with California and supposed Californian values in both the popular media (Pratt and D’Onofrio 2017) and the ears of Californian listeners (Villarreal 2018). This study investigates the local construction of meaning for a supra-local sound change by examining perceptions of TRAP backing in Kansas, a locale that has undergone front lax vowel retraction (Kohn and Stithem 2015). Thirty-five college students heard matched-guise stimuli differing only by TRAP F2, guessed speakers’ regional origin, and rated speakers on 14 affective scales. Listeners associated TRAP backing with California (despite local participation in the sound shift) and general prestige. We suggest that that this association with general prestige may help to explain the presence of this vowel shift in Kansas despite considerable ideological differences with California. We argue that these results highlight the interaction between local construction of meaning and broader national discourses for a sound change: While stereotypical associations with a sound change can spread rapidly through means like popular media, stance and identity associations are constructed at the local level.
Local meanings for supra-local change: Perceptions of TRAP backing in Kansas1
Dan Villarreal is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour, at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. His work centers on the intersection of phonetic variation and social meaning. His research on the social meanings of the California Vowel Shift has recently appeared in the Journal of English Linguistics and Publications of the American Dialect Society. E-mail: email@example.com.
Mary Kohn is an Associate Professor in English at Kansas State University where she directs the Kansas Speaks Project. Her work examines regional and social variation with a focus on the Great Plains region. Her monograph, The Way I Communicate Changes But How I Speak Don’t: A Longitudinal Perspective on Adolescent Language Variation and Change (2015), published through Duke University Press, examines lifespan change among African American adolescents. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Villarreal, Mary Kohn; Local meanings for supra-local change: Perceptions of TRAP backing in Kansas1. American Speech doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283/8186897
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