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Linguists to gather in Minneapolis for national conference
Date:12/6/2013

Do people change their accents over time? A new study by linguists Allison Shapp, Nathan LaFave, and John Victor Singler of New York University suggests they do. The authors examined Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's speech during her long career. Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn, an area characterized by the "raised" vowel in the first syllable of coffee and no /r/ sound in words like court and lawyer. The researchers studied Ginsburg's speech first when she was a lawyer before the Court in the 1970's and then when she was a Justice from 1993 to the present. They found that Ginsburg showed less use of New York features when she was a lawyer arguing cases before the Court than as a Justice on the Court. Moreover, the longer she sits on the Supreme Court, the more she returns to New York City features, in particular using less and less /r/ over time. This study supports an idea in sociolinguistics that in general people use forms with social prestige most often during the height of their working lives. Older people may shift to using more stigmatized forms either because they are retired and are no longer concerned with speaking "correctly" to impress others, or, as is likely the case with Ginsburg, have "made it" and no longer find such self-correction necessary in speech due to their personal prestige and self-confidence.

Title: Recovering Voices at the Smithsonian: Communities + Collections + Research

Author: Ruth Rouvier

There are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages spoken in the world today. Each of these languages, and the knowledge and cultural practices it contains, offers unique insights into the workings of the human mind and the ways in which people understand and interact with their social, cultural, and natural environments. The diversity of languages and systems of knowledge across cultures are central to what makes us human. Unfortunately, the number of speakers of many languages is falling sharply,
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Contact: Alyson Reed
areed@lsadc.org
202-835-1714
Linguistic Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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