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Lexical Change and Variation in the Southeastern United States, 1930-1990

Written by Ellen Johnson

Publication Year: 1996

This book discusses words used in the Southeast and how they have changed
during the 20th century. It also describes how the lexicon varies according
to the speaker's age, race, education, sex, and place of residence
(urban versus rural; coastal versus piedmont versus mountain). Data collected
in the 1930s as part of the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic
States project were compared with data collected in 1990 from similar speakers
in the same communities.

The results show that region was the most important
factor in differentiating dialects in the 1930s but that it is the least
important element in the 1990s, with age, education, race, and age all
showing about the same influence on the use of vocabulary. An appendix
contains a tally of the responses given by 78 speakers to 150 questions
about vocabulary items, along with speakers' commentary. Results
from the 1930s may be compared to those from 1990, making this a treasure
trove for anyone interested in regional terms or in how our speech is changing
as the South moves from an agricultural economy through industrialization
and into the information age.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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Title Page

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p. vii

List of Tables

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pp. xiii-ix

List of Maps

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p. x

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pp. ix-xiii

I began working part time at the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS) in the summer of 1987, following my first year of graduate studies at the University of Georgia. I knew very little about dialectology, but by the end of the first two weeks, my head was already full of potential research projects based on this huge...

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pp. 1-4

This is the report of a project designed to measure change and variation in the lexicon by contrasting data collected in the mid-1930s with comparable data collected in 1990. It is a broad study, spread across 62,500 square miles and encompassing 78 speakers with birthdates ranging from 1847 to 1959. Responses to one hundred and fifty different...

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1. Collection and Categorization of the Data

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pp. 5-28

The conclusions of this project are based on an examination of two sets of data: one collected in the late 1930s as part of the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS), and one collected by the present researcher in 1990. These sets include pairs of informants matched according to personal characteristics and living in the...

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2. Variation

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pp. 29-60

The 150 questions from the LAMSAS worksheets yielded 1,007 variants, while the 1990 interviews produced 1,402 different terms, an average of 6.7 and 9.4 different responses, respectively, for each linguistic variable. This tremendous amount of variety in the speech of only 78 informants underscores the richness and complexity of language...

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3. Change

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pp. 61-78

This study is unusual among sociolinguistic analyses because of its time span. Few variationist research projects have had truly comparable data spanning nearly sixty years available for analysis. Real time studies have an advantage over studies using change in apparent time (across age groups), since they do not have to rely on other sources of...

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4. Culture and the Lexicon

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pp. 79-113

The lexicon of a language tells the story of the culture of those who speak the language. Jaberg and Jud, who came to the United States to train fieldworkers for the Linguistic Atlas of the U.S. and Canada project (of which LAMSAS is a part), were proponents of a research interest focused on W

Appendix 1: Biographical Sketches

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pp. 115-136

Appendix 2: Variants Associated with Regional or Social Groups

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pp. 137-145

Appendix 3: Variants Exhibiting Diachronic Change

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pp. 146-152

Appendix 4: Tallies and Selected Commentary

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pp. 153-284

Appendix 5: Index of Variants by Question Number

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pp. 285-293


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pp. 294-302


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pp. 303-318

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817307943

Page Count: 334
Publication Year: 1996

OCLC Number: 44964028
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Lexical Change and Variation in the Southeastern United States, 1930-1990

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Linguistic change.
  • English language -- Dialects -- Southern States.
  • Language and culture -- Southern States.
  • Americanisms -- Southern States.
  • Southern States -- Languages.
  • English language -- Variation -- Southern States.
  • English language -- Southern States -- Lexicology.
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