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Social meaning in archival interaction: a mixed-methods analysis of variation in rhoticity and past tense BE in Oldham

Dann, Holly, Durkaczs Ryan, Sadie and Drummond, Robert ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5212-5337 (2022) Social meaning in archival interaction: a mixed-methods analysis of variation in rhoticity and past tense BE in Oldham. English Language and Linguistics. ISSN 1360-6743

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Abstract

This article uses a mixed-methods approach to investigate the indexical fields of two variables, one phonological (rhoticity) and one morphosyntactic (past tense BE), in oral history interviews with speakers from Oldham (Greater Manchester, UK), born between 1907 and 1929. In a quantitative analysis of the variation, we account for a range of linguistic constraints, and find some evidence suggesting that rhoticity does not tend to cooccur with nonstandard past tense BE. To investigate this further, we employ a modified version of the Lectal Focusing in Interaction method (Sharma & Rampton 2015; Sharma 2018), allowing us to track the speakers’ variation in interaction. Using this method, we explore the indexical fields of the variables, which we suggest are potentially in conflict, perhaps explaining the observed pattern of non-cooccurrence. Overall, our analysis demonstrates how the status of rhoticity and past tense BE in relation to prescribed standard English, as well as shifting and stable variables, influences their indexical potential in interaction.

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