Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Linguistics

Advisor

Michael Newman

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics

Keywords

sociolinguistics, New York City English, accent, stereotype, stigma, phones

Abstract

Since the late 19th Century, the accent particular to New Yorker City natives of European descent has been negatively perceived by both the American general public and the speakers themselves. The stereotypification of New York City English speakers has largely been the cause of this negative evaluation, in that the features of the accent, as well as the unique New York discourse style, have long been utilized by actors and comedians to create characters of uneducated, uncultured provenance, as well as, all too often, unscrupulous behavior. Thus, the features of European-American New York City English appear to be inextricably linked to the stereotype, and so it is difficult to learn if negative perception is simply due to the aural quality of the phones, which may be displeasing to interlocutors, or if the interlocutors consider the phones to be markers of abhorrent values, attitudes, and traits. The current study attempts to disentangle the perceptions by presenting to participatory listeners three European-American New York City English features alone and in combination. Moreover, the features are presented in contextually ambiguous stimuli devoid of stereotypical New York characterization. In this way, the participants would only be able to rely on phonetic cues to elicit their visceral negative or positive responses. The results of two experiments reveal that the features alone are insufficient to generate anything more than a medial evaluation from 200 participants, thereby supporting the possibility that a Campbell-Kibler “stylistic package” that conforms to the participant schema of a stereotypical New Yorker is required to elicit negative reaction.

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