Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, United Kingdom
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LVLT talk: 'The role of the retroflex in identity construction; a purposeful feature?' Maya Zara

Date: 5 May 2011 Time: 12.00 pm

Venue: County South C89

The Language Variation and Linguistic Theory research group is pleased to welcome:

Zara Maya

...who willgive a talk entitled:

The role of the retroflex in identity construction; a purposeful feature?

12-1, County South C89



A British, Asian, or mosaic identity; British Asian adolescents in Blackburn use weak and strong retroflex variants to index different aspects of their mosaic identity. Recent studies have confirmed the retention and re-allocation of the retroflex in English for the phoneme [t] (Sharma, Sankaran, 2011; draft version), and identified social and cultural practices as explanations for usage (Lambert, Alam, and Stuart-Smith, 2007). This research focuses on weak and strong variations of the retroflex in the realisation of the English phonemes [t], [d], and [r]. The primary motivation of migration to Britain; economic attainment, is identified as central to style shifting choices made by the second generation, a motivation which has been overlooked by previous work in this area.

In contrast to other studies which have taken place in large cities including Leeds (Heselwood, and McChrystal, 2000), Birmingham, (Khan, A, 2006), and London (Sharma; 2010), this study took place in Blackburn. The former mill town allowed for an understanding of the impact of small town ethnic and social dynamics. The adolescents were recorded discussing attitudes held towards British Whites, and career aspirations in a context of leaving a message for their teacher. Data has been elicited from ten British Asians, and seven British Whites, allowing for contrast between two co-existing varieties of English, within one region (Fought, 2006).

Results show that adolescents style shift in the direction of weaker retroflex variants when discussing career aspirations, and positive attitudes towards British Whites; two values emphasised by parents during biographical interviews. Strong variants have an emblematic function as they are retained in the use of Asian names, when used amongst other Asians. In this way, the use of weak and strong forms of the retroflex feature serve as a tool to index different aspects of a mosaic identity (Levon, 2006).

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Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Language Variation and Linguistic Theory (LVLT), Linguistics and English Language