Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This paper investigates the regional dimension of new-dialect formation and feature maintenance and loss in early 20th century New Zealand English (NZE). Examining the distribution and status of voiceless labiovelar /hw/ fricatives (which results in an articulatory contrast between Wales and whales, or witch and which) in three selected regions of New Zealand (Otago/Southland, Canterbury, and the North Island), we show that the overall distribution of this feature represents population demographics and ancestral effects, and that its loss and maintenance are conditioned by social criteria (total input of /hw/ retaining donor dialects, settlement type) as well as by linguistic factors (preceding environment, word type). Usage of labiovelar fricatives is strongest in areas that had a high contingent of Scottish settlers and lowest in regions that were predominantly settled by English settlers. Moreover, in all three areas women have higher usage of /hw/ than men, which is of relevance for the reputedly high social status of /hw/ usage and gender-based language differentiation.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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