The Strong Island Sound: Sociolinguistic Evidence for Emerging American Ethnicities
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation presents evidence for the usage of New York City English (NYCE) out on Long Island, NY. Many residents on this 118-mile long island are descendents of the European immigrants who moved to NYC around the turn of the twentieth century—mainly Italians, Irish, and Polish. When these groups moved out to the suburbs of Long Island half a century later, they brought their NYCE with them. Today, this ancestral connection, as well as age and gender, serves as a motivation for Long Islanders’ continued usage of NYCE. The data come from sociolinguistic interviews conducted over two years with local residents of Suffolk and Nassau counties on Long Island. Participants were interviewed about their personal histories and asked to read a word list. A discourse analysis of the personal history interviews informed the categories used for multiple regression analyses to ensure the coded categories matched onto speakers’ self-identification practices. The discourse analysis also provides evidence for the attitudes Long Islanders hold about themselves as “real New Yorkers”, about their own language usage, and about the language spoken by “people from the city”. Multiple regression analyses fit with mixed effects models were run to demonstrate the state of NYCE as it is spoken on Long Island. Results are presented for the long ingliding vowels (raised-/oh/ and the split short-a system), the long upgliding vowels, and r-vocalization. Although some younger speakers are using fewer traditional NYCE features, those who identify with their families’ ancestral immigrant pasts tend to prefer the traditional NYCE features, retaining a “Strong Island” sound to their speech.
Sociolinguistics; Language; Ethnicity; Discourse analysis; Sociophonetics