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Abstract

This dissertation is a sociophonetic study of emphasis (the term used to describe consonants which exhibit a secondary articulation in the posterior of the vocal tract) in Turoyo, an endangered Neo-Aramaic language, as spoken within a close-knit immigrant community (which I refer to as the Mor Gabriel community) in northern New Jersey. This secondary articulation, which is present in Turoyo but not in English, presents a unique window into the phonetics of Turoyo, as well as into the sociolinguistic aspects of this language amidst continual contact with English. This dissertation seeks to answer three questions: (1) what are the acoustic correlates of emphasis in Mor Gabriel Turoyo? (2) is there variability in the acoustic correlates between generations? (3) if there is variability, what social factors correlate to the most faithful preservation of the acoustic correlates of emphasis? In order to answer (1) and (2), I conduct an acoustic production study of emphasis comparing first, second, and third-generation Turoyo speakers, in order to explore the acoustic correlates of emphasis in Turoyo and to see how faithfully the language is being passed on between the generations. In order to answer (3), I include gender and age (generation) in the acoustic study and also conduct a sociolinguistic study utilizing interviews directed by sociolinguistic questionnaires. The sociolinguistic study explores language use within the community and further questions are synthesized with the results of the acoustic study to determine what social factors correlate to the most faithful preservation of the acoustic correlates of emphasis. While the language is found to be spoken less with each passing generation and the acoustic correlates of emphasis are found to be diminishing with each passing generation, the young people in this community are continuing to speak the language for at least another generation past the norm. This is found to be due to the sociolinguistic factors of family, social networks, and religion which are very influential in the community, though identity is ultimately the most influential. Case studies are examined which look at two families and how the acoustic correlates and sociolinguistic factors work together in their use of Turoyo. In chapter 1, I introduce and motivate the study. Chapter 2 is a literature review - in the first half of the chapter, I review the Turoyo language and the community in which the language is spoken, and in the second half of the chapter, I review the literature on emphasis, including a typology of emphasis cross-linguistically and previous acoustic studies. In chapter 3, I lay out my methodology for both the acoustic study and the sociolinguistic study. In chapter 4, I introduce the generation and language use in the community (the first part of the results of the sociolinguistic study). In chapter 5, I give the acoustic correlates of emphasis in Turoyo by reviewing the results of the acoustic study for the grandparent generation. In chapter 6, I look at the sociolinguistic variation between the acoustic correlates, first by examining the results of the acoustic experiment for other generations and looking to see if there are differences between generations and genders, and then by synthesizing the results of the acoustic experiment with the results of the sociolinguistic study. In Chapter 7, I sum up the results and discuss important implications.

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