[Colloquium] The Sounds of Contemporary Diné Bizaad (Navajo): Sociophonetic Analyses of Variation and Change

Event Date: 

Thursday, February 14, 2019 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • South Hall 3605

Many studies have documented an increase in variation and frequency of change in endangered language speech communities (Campbell & Muntzel 1989; Cook 1989; Wolfram 2002; Bird 2008). However, sociophonetic documentation of specific changes in minority languages is limited, and less is known about the social patterning of variation and change in these contexts. Based on analyses of data drawn from 51 interviews with bilingual speakers of English and Diné bizaad (Navajo)—an endangered Native American language spoken in the present-day North American Southwest— this talk discusses the contemporary status of three variable features in the language: aspirated stops, lateral affricates, and sibilant harmony. Sociophonetic analyses will be presented for each feature, as well as discussions of the evidence for change. Based on these three studies, I will show that Diné bizaad features are not uniformly becoming more variable or significantly changing, results that contribute to what we know about the motivations for, and diffusion of, sound change in endangered languages.