Abstracts for American Speech, vol. 80, no. 3

The Invisible Community of the Lost Colony: African American English on Roanoke Island
Jeannine Carpenter
Duke University and North Carolina State University

Abstract: The regional accommodation of earlier and contemporary African American speech remains a major issue in the development of African American English (AAE). This article analyzes a unique regional situation with respect to African American speech—Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the first settlement of British colonists disappeared in 1587 and where a stable community of African Americans has lived since the Civil War. Quantitative analysis of the speech of four generations of African Americans from Roanoke Island for Outer Banks regional features and core diagnostic structures of AAE shows patterns of dialect alignment over time. The generational patterns reveal changes in alignment in the AAE spoken on Roanoke Island over apparent time. However, significant levels of individual variation in each generation are also attested, challenging generalizations about consistent changes over time. The mixed dialect alignment among Roanoke Island African Americans supports the conclusion that regional speech patterns can serve an important role in the development of different varieties of AAE. Furthermore, the unique configuration of dialect features on Roanoke Island indicates alternative trajectories of change in different regional settings, influenced by such factors as population size and local and extended interethnic contact situations.

Male chauvinish, feminist, sexist, and sexual harassment: Different Trajectories in Feminist Linguistic Innovation
Jane Mansbridge and Katherine Flaster
Harvard University

Abstract: The usage of the term male chauvinist, commonly thought to have arisen in the late 1960s, is tracked in the New York Times from 1851 to 1999 using the ProQuest Historical Newspapers online archive, along with feminist, another revivified word, and the new coinages sexist and sexual harassment. Male chauvinist reveals the characteristic pattern of a vogue word in its relatively swift rise and slower decline, while the other words, once introduced or reintroduced, have a more sustained trajectory. A comparison through survey research of male chauvinist with sexist reveals greater cross-class and cross-race usage of male chauvinist.

So Weird; So Cool; So Innovative: The Use of Intensifiers in the Television Series Friends
Sali Tagliamonte and Chris Roberts
University of Toronto

Abstract: The use of intensifiers in the television series Friends between 1994 and 2002 provides a unique opportunity to (1) study linguistic innovation in real time and (2) test the viability of media-based data as a surrogate to “real-world” data in sociolinguistic research. The Friends data exhibit almost the same overall rate of intensification as similar studies of contemporary English, and the same intensifiers occur most frequently: really, very, and so. Frequency of intensifier correlates with its time origin, reflecting the typical layering of forms in language. Moreover, in Friends the once primary intensifier in North America, really, is being usurped by so, which is used more often by the female characters than by the males. Taken together, these findings support the claim that media language does reflect what is going on in language and may even pave the way for innovation. Television data can provide interesting and informative sociolinguistic data for study.

Among the New Words
Wayne Glowka, Debra Dent, Kathryn Ball, Kim Benfield, Charles Farmer, Scott Daniel, Nicole Hensel, Jamie McAfee, Lee Ogletree, Jessica Rossin, Terri Scott, R. Doug Thompson, and William V. Sinski
Georgia College & State University;
David K. Barnhart, Lexik House Publishers

backdoor draft
blog-, blogo-
clone and kill, clone-to-kill
douche chill
hillbilly armor
holy toast
lawn mullet
meet-up, meetup
Orange Revolution
partner reduction
security mom


Principles of Linguistic Change, vol. 2, Social Factors, by William Labov
Review by William A. Kretzschmar, Jr.

What’s in a Word? Etymological Gossip about Some Interesting English Words, by Robert Gorrell
Review by Sarah Hilliard