Graduation Year

2020

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department

Linguistics

Major

Anthropology – Linguistics

Faculty Mentor

Leora Bar-el

Faculty Mentor Department

Linguistics

Keywords

Dialectology, Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Montana

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Linguistics

Abstract

Sociolinguistic research claims that there is a common dialect of English shared by all states between the Great Plains and Pacific coast. This dialect area is referred to as the West and is defined by a lack of easily discernable speech characteristics. (Labov et al. 2006). Researchers, especially those residing or hailing from the West, have objected to this presumed homogeneity and have sought to document variation in the dialects of English on a state or regional scale. Research on dialects within Montana is limited. Bar-el et al.’s (2017) perceptual dialect map tasks revealed that many Montanans believe that there are different dialects spoken in eastern and western parts of the state. Research documenting the actual differences in the speech of Montanans from the eastern and western regions of the state has not yet been conducted. My research attempts to determine which dialect features, if any, distinguish between the east and west, and the location of the demarcation between dialects.

This study involves conducting interviews and online questionnaires with people who have grown up in Montana in order to determine whether there are systematic differences in the English spoken in eastern and western Montana. I focus on two aspects of dialect variation: the pronunciation of vowels (in sociolinguistic research vowels shifting and merging alone has defined dialects), and the use of sentence constructions not considered typical of Montana speech but arguably present, such as The car needs washed, and Everyone reads anymore. The collected data will reveal whether or not the perceived differences in eastern and western Montana English are based on actual speech and possibly which parts of Montana are most and least similar and whether certain features are indicative of certain regions, which may lend insight on the construction and bias of perceived social differences.

Honors College Research Project

No

GLI Capstone Project

no

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