This article presents results of apparent- and real-time study of dialect variation and change in Smith Island, a small community in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay characterized by a dwindling population and increasing contact with mainlanders. Data come from an original apparent-time study gathered in 1985, a restudy conducted in 2000, and an ongoing restudy begun in 2015. Analysis methods include quantitative sociolinguistic analysis of select features in the two previous studies, acoustic phonetic analysis of the vowel space of individuals in the current study, and holistic observations regarding the course of dialect change in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Key sociolinguistic issues addressed include the nature of the phonological systems of small, rural communities at the periphery of larger dialect areas; possible pathways of dialect change in endangerment situations; and the role of the social meanings of language varieties and variants in shaping the course of language change in the face of increasing cultural and linguistic contact.

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Author notes

natalie schilling is associate professor of linguistics at Georgetown University. She specializes in the study of regional dialect variation and change, especially in American English, and in the investigation of stylistic variation. She also does work in forensic linguistics She heads two ongoing sociolinguistic research projects at Georgetown University: Language and Communication in Washington, D.C. (LCDC), and Smith Island Voices. E-mail: ns3@georgetown.edu.