Talk – Annette D’Onofrio & Jaime Benheim

Our next speakers will be Annette D’Onofrio and Jaime Benheim (LING), presenting on: “Contextualizing Reversal: Sociohistorical Dynamics and the Northern Cities Shift in a Chicago Neighborhood”. Our meeting will take place at the regular time and place on Wednesday 01/23 from 4-5pm in Cresap 101.

Abstract: Despite Chicago’s status as the largest urban center in the Inland North, recent dynamics of the region’s Northern Cities Vowel Shift have remained relatively understudied in this city. This study examines the vowel systems of 40 speakers from one Chicago neighborhood area. Results reveal a reversal of the NCS in apparent time, paralleling findings in other NCS locales. However, while results indicate a robust community-wide trend, not all speakers engage with the shift in the same way. Through a qualitative examination of individual speakers’ vowel spaces, we find that shifting demographics and ideological concerns across the neighborhood’s history help explain which community members are likely to use NCS-shifted vowels at different points in apparent time. More broadly, we suggest that reversals of local sound changes are not always indicators of increased supralocal orientation or contact, but instead can be driven by shifts in what it means to index local identity.

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