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jeu. 09/11/2017 Phonetic vs. phonological variation in Heritage Italian VOT
CR34 Clio
Conférence de :
  • Naomi Nagy (University of Toronto)
Réseau de sociolinguistique variationnelle

When two languages share the same phonetic feature, but differ in its phonotactic distribution, change may occur (in either language) through progressive restructuring of distributional norms (Nodari et al. 2017). In this talk, phonetic and phonological variation is investigated in the context of Heritage Italian speakers living in Toronto, Canada. Variationist sociolinguistic methods are applied to explain patterns of variation in Voice Onset Time (VOT) to understand whether the observed variation indicates change in the language.
Calabrian Italian is characterized by an allophonic rule of voiceless stop aspiration that preferentially applies in syllables whose onset is the second member of a heterosyllabic cluster (e.g. [ˈstaŋkho] stanco ‘tired’) or a geminate (e.g. [ˈstakkho] stacco ‘I disconnect’). In English, aspiration applies in stressed CV(X) syllables. Previous auditory analysis of Heritage (Calabrian) Italian in English-speaking Canada has shown evidence of phonological innovation: the incidence of long-lag VOT in unstressed CV syllables decreases, while, in stressed CV syllables, it increases from 1st to 2nd to 3rd generation speakers (Nodari et al. 2016, 2017). In contrast, previous acoustic analysis of VOT in the English-aspiration contexts showed cross-generational stability among the same speakers(Nagy & Kochetov 2013), paralleling findings for the morphosyntactic variable pro-drop (Nagy 2015).
We next evaluated whether the phonetic characteristics of the voiceless stops change , and, if so, what factors correlate to this variation. 16 speakers from the Heritage Language Variation and Change (HLVC) corpus (Nagy 2011; http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/ngn/HLVC ), representing adult immigrants, and children and grandchildren of immigrants from Calabria, were selected. We measured the VOT and the duration of the following vowel for aspirated and unaspirated stops from the same contexts as Nodari et al. (2016). Speech rate was analysed to assess the speakers’ proficiency in their heritage language. The speech of 6 homeland speakers (from Calabria) was also analysed for comparison. Data show cross-generation and interspeaker differences for both phonetic and phonological variation. The sociolinguistic practices and attitudes of the speakers, assessed through the HLVC ethnic orientation questionnaire, contribute to the explanation of interspeaker variation. Nagy, N. 2011. A multilingual corpus to explain geographic variation. Rassegna Italiana di Linguistica Applicata 43.1-2:65-84.
Nagy, N. 2014 [online]; 2015 [paper]. A sociolinguistic view of null subjects and VOT in Toronto heritage languages. Lingua 164B:309-327. Nagy, N. & A. Kochetov. 2013. Voice Onset Time across the generations: A cross-linguistic study of contact-induced change. In Multilingualism and Language Contact in Urban Areas: Acquisition - Development - Teaching - Communication. P. Siemund, I. Gogolin, M. Schulz & J. Davydova, (eds.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 19-38.
Nodari R., Celata C., Nagy N. 2017. Interspeaker and cross-generation patterns of variation in phonetic and phonological attrition. 11th Int’l Symposium on Bilingualism, Limerick, Ireland, June 2017.
Nodari R., Celata C., Nagy N. 2016 Immigrants’ speech: is phonetic attrition a necessary precondition for phonological attrition to occur? Third International Conference on Language Attrition (ICLA3), Colchester, UK, July 2016.

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