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Identity, ethnicity and fine phonetic detail

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Abstract

English in the Indian diaspora in Britain is of much interest, both in the emergence of regional ethnic Englishes (Heselwood & McChrystal 2000) and in the potential links with language change in mainstream English (Kerswill et al. 2008). Also intriguing are the processes by which features percolate through generations of speakers (Sharma & Sankaran 2011). At the phonological level, subtle differences in phonetic characteristics may index locally-situated social/ethnic identities in second and further generations (Stuart-Smith et al. 2011). Lawson et al. (2011) show that the auditory-articulatory relationship is complex, with very fine-grained phonetic characteristics potentially having salience for a community (Docherty & Foulkes 1999). We present results of an acoustic phonetic analysis of syllable-initial /t/ in adolescent girls of Pakistani heritage in Glasgow. Speech data were drawn from a long-term ethnography in an inner-city secondary school. Several Communities of Practice were identified (cf. Eckert 2000), spanning a continuum from British/western to traditionally Pakistani and/or Muslim practices. Spectral analysis of the stop bursts of /t/ revealed not only clear patterning according to social practices but also gradience for individuals within Communities of Practice. This suggests the emergence of a local ethnic accent with subtle adaptation of heritage features reflecting new emerging identities (cf. Harris 2006).

References

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