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Academic Paper

Title: Dialect change?
Author: Jenny Nilsson
Institution: Institutet för språk och folkminnen
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Abstract: The project Dialect Levelling in West Sweden focuses on the dialect situation in the first decade of the 21st century compared with the dialects spoken in the same region in the 1940s–1960s. Seventy teenagers participating in group interviews have been recorded and their use of phonological and morphological variables has been analysed. Comparisons with data recorded in the same region by The Institute of Language and Folklore in 1940–1960 show that dialect levelling is under way. It seems that the population of this area no longer speak a traditional dialect. An important issue, however, is how much the traditional dialects have actually changed, and to what extent the method for collecting data affects the answer. In the mid-20th century, the praxis within Swedish dialectology for selecting informants was to find as old and rural dialect speakers as possible to represent a specific region, and the purpose was that of documenting the dialect as a linguistic system. Today, however, many studies select informants based on speaker variables, because the aim is to document the (i.e. who uses what linguistic variants when), rather than the traditional dialect as a linguistic system. Thus, there is a distinct difference between a linguistic interest and a sociolinguistic one. In this paper I suggest that it is critical when discussing dialect change to observe this very methodological change. In order to illustrate this, the use of dialect variants by two informants recorded in 1948 is compared with the use of dialect variants by three informants recorded in 2007 and 2008. The informants are all from around a small rural village located approximately 70 km from Gothenburg in West Sweden. This is an area where a specific variety of West Swedish has been spoken. By comparing these individuals, the concept of dialect change is problematized.


This article appears IN Nordic Journal of Linguistics Vol. 32, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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