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Geolinguistics of a variable rule

By J. K. Chambers


Dialect geography stands at the periphery of modern linguistics. However, recent developments in urban dialectology, human geography, and especially variation theory provide new perspectives, methodologies and hypotheses for studying the geographical dispersion of linguistic features, and the time is ripe for building a revitalized dialect geography, or geolinguistics. This article provides a suggestive case study. Extracting the data for a variable rule of final consonant cluster simplification for rural adults in northern England from the records of the Survey of English Dialects, it seeks to discover the geographical correlates of the linguistic patterns. Although the raw data are apparently intractable in this respect, analysis in terms of the formal properties of the phonological rule reveals a relatively well-behaved, recurring geographical pattern, in which speakers with the more restricted versions of the rule are clustered together in areas which are bounded by the areas in which speakers with more general versions of the rule are located

Topics: Morpheme-final consonant-cluster simplification, deletion
Publisher: Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto
Year: 1980
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