Bidialectalism or dialect death? Explaining generational change in the Shetland Islands, Scotland

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Smith, Jennifer ; Durham, Mercedes (2012)

This article investigates the use of traditional dialect forms in a community in Shetland, northern Scotland. Specifically, we seek to establish whether the younger generations' patterns of language use signal rapid dialect obsolescence or bidialectalism. It compares recordings in which audience design is manipulated—the addressee is either an insider or an outsider—across a range of lexical, phonological, and morphosyntactic variables. Results show that only some of the younger speakers are bidialectal: the remaining speakers use virtually no dialect forms. These findings may signal dialect shift and a move from local to standard in the coming generations. The article further explores the linguistic details of the bidialectal speakers' language use through a qualitative and quantitative comparison of forms across the different recordings. It finds that the use of the two varieties operates on a continuum, where rates of use differ but constraints remain the same across the two speech styles. It discusses these findings against the backdrop of bidialectalism and the process of dialect obsolescence in the British Isles and elsewhere.
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    9 A chi square test comparing the rates of Joanne's first and second recordings is statistically significant (p < 0.05 df = 1, χ2 = 7.8), as is Valerie's (p < 0.001 df = 1, χ 2 = 13.1) and Lisa's (p < 0.05 df = 1, χ2 = 10.4). The test for Jake is not statistically significant (p > 0.05, df = 1, χ2 = 0.34) and neither is Stewart's (p > 0.05, df=1, χ2 = 0.22).

    10 A chi square test comparing the rates of Sean's first and second recordings is statistically significant at p < 0.05 (df = 1, χ2 = 5.7). The test for Mark (p > 0.05, df =1, χ2 = 1.9) and Rory (p > 0.05, df =1, χ2 = 0.2) is not statistically significant. Although Michelle's rates of th- stopping and her overall number of tokens make it impossible to test for statistical significance, the rates between the first and second recording are within one percent of each other which suggests no difference.

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