Patterns of /ai/ & Appalachian Stances in the Diaspora
Abstract: This paper investigates the patterning of /ai/in constellations of stances revealed during ethnographic fieldwork with Appalachian migrants in the Detroit metropolitan area. Appalachian migration to the Midwest, including Detroit, started during World War 1, continued through World War II, and persisted through the peak period of American automobile manufacturing, which started declining in the 1980s. The Appalachian migrants in this study continue to constitute a distinctive ethnic group in the Detroit area and continue to use southern mountain speech, even the Detroit-born descendants of migrants who have never lived in the South. Stance-taking is speaker positioning (alignment and disalignment) with respect to the content of utterances, to other conversational partners, and to real and imagined audiences (Jaffe 2009). Stances contribute to the differentiation of individuals and groups. Epistemic stances establish authority and lay claim to knowledge in talk (Jaffe 2009). They serve to legitimate. Evaluative stances do just that—evaluate. Kiesling (2009) argues that stance-taking is the primitive in variable patterns of use, and suggests that sociolinguists finally have a means to explain not just the “what” of sociolinguistic variation but the “why” and the “how”. Glide-weakened /ai/ in all phonetic contexts is an iconic feature of Appalachian English, as demonstrated by Preston, Plichta, Wolfram & Christian, Childs & Mallinson, Burkette, Anderson, Thomas, and others. This paper examines the quantitative patterns of /ai/ glide-weakening (irrespective of discursive context) but then (re)situates variants of /ai/ back into culturally important stances. The analysis thus provides two views of the variable /ai/ for these Appalachian migrants, one quantitative and the other in terms of stance-work of gradient acoustic variants.