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Winter in Northern Arizona


Arizona English

This page documents a long-term project on the vowel patterns and other linguistic variation in Arizona.

The first stage of the research was based on interviews I collected in 2002-2004. This work tracked the spread of ‘Californian’ sound changes in the speech of residents of the city of Flagstaff, in Northern Arizona.

The second stage of this research, in collaboration with Mary Rose, investigated the linguistic construction of rural American identities. Mary's work looked at dairy farmers in Wisconsin, and mine looked at cattle ranchers in Arizona.

The third stage of this research, in collaboration with my PhD student, Mirjam Eiswirth, and University of Arizona PhD students, Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson and William Cotter, is revisiting the 2002-2004 data, looking at new linguistic variables, and adding to the data through a partnership with the oral history organization, StoryCorps.



About Me

I'm a Lecturer in Sociolinguistics at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. I was raised (from age five) in Flagstaff and I went to college at the University of Arizona in Tucson, before moving to California to get my PhD. I began fieldwork with native Flagstaffians in the summer of 2002, and I expanded my fieldwork to interviews with cattle ranchers from across the state in the summer of 2004.



About the Project

My work looks at the phonetic differences between individual speakers, specifically their vowel pronunciation, though I'm also interested in variable lexical features and some morphosyntactic properties. Although I have only described a few vowel characteristics in detail, I've created this website due to the urging of my fellow sociolinguists to document some of the still uninvestigated linguistic features that have caught my attention along the way. As a result, the information presented on this website is meant to serve as a summary of my impressions, rather than as a catalogue of any tested findings. Note that all of my analyses so far have described the speech of European Americans in the area, although I have and plan to conduct more interviews with locals of Navajo, Hopi, African American, Asian American, and Latin American ethnicities. Please also note that this website is subject to change and clarification as the science continues to corroborate or disprove these impressions.

In my work I argue that cattle ranchers use a different linguistic system than that of the townspeople in Flagstaff. For that reason, all linguistic properties below are labeled for 'town' versus 'ranch'. However, it's important to keep in mind that the lived reality of these labels varies quite a bit between individual speakers and is subject to constant renegotiation. Describing and analyzing how Arizonans construct 'urbanity' and 'rurality' through language use is something that's central to the project itself.



Linguistic Features

Phonetics & Phonology

• fronted (uw), as in boot   --  {town, ranch}
• fronted (ow), as in boat   --  {town}
• raised (ae) before nasals, as in can   --  {town}
• fronted (^), as in cut   --  {ranch}
• merger of (ah) and (oh), a.k.a. the cot/caught merger   --  {town; ranch participation unknown}
• merger of (ih) and (eh) before nasals, a.k.a. the pin/pen merger   --  {ranch}
• monophthongization of (ay), as in ride   --  {ranch}
• /t/ in drought pronounced as a theta, as in It's been droughthy this year   --  {ranch}
• both Town and Ranch are /r/-ful dialects

Lexicon & Morphosyntax

• positive anymore, as in "Anymore, that's all people do here."   --  {town, ranch}
• ranching specific terms, as in cattle breed names   --  {ranch}
• use of common count nouns as mass nouns, as in We have a lot of cow this year.   --  {ranch}
• use of deictic them, as in Over in them hills.   --  {ranch}



Related Papers & Presentations

Hall-Lew, Lauren, Mirjam Eiswirth, Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, & Wiliam Cotter. (2015) Northern Arizona: Sound Change and Dialect Contact. New Ways of Analyzing Variation 44 (NWAV44), 22–25 October, Toronto, Canada.

Rose, Mary and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2008. Ranchers and farmers: Social meaning and linguistic variation in US rural communities. (Panel Title: Contemporary Ruralities: Language, Identity, and Place) Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). 19-23 November, San Francisco, CA.

Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2005. One Shift, Two Groups: When fronting alone is not enough. University of Philadelphia Working Papers in Linguistics 10.2: Selected Papers from NWAVE 32.

Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2004. The Western Vowel Shift in Northern Arizona. Unpublished manuscript. Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2004. Between Communities: Southwestern U.S. English. American Dialect Society (ADS). 8-11 January, Boston, MA.

Rose, Mary and Lauren Hall-Lew. 2004. Linguistic Variation and the Rural Imaginary. New Ways of Analyzing Variation 33 (NWAV33). 1-3 October, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Hall-Lew, Lauren and Malcah Yaeger-Dror. 'Totally California?': The Occurrence of (ow)-Fronting in Arizona English. New Ways of Analyzing Variation 31 (NWAV31). 10-13 October, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.

Hall-Lew, Lauren. 2004. "Arizona's Not So Standard English." LanguageMagazine. http://www.languagemagazine.com. (May). reprinted in:



Walt Wolfram and Ben Ward (eds.) 2006.
American Voices: How dialects differ from coast to coast.
Malden, MA: Blackwell.


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