Friday Speaker Series: Suzanne Evans Wagner, Michigan State University

Subject: The New Normal: Supra-Local Sound Change in Michigan

Abstract: A major finding of the Atlas of North American English project (Labov, Ash & Boberg 2006) was that the regional phonologies of US English were becoming more differentiated over time. Yet over the last decade, sociolinguistic studies of US cities have reported surprisingly convergent observations of ongoing sound change (e.g. Podesva et al 2015; Thiel & Dinkin 2017; Villareal, Kohn & Hattesohl 2017). Although the details differ somewhat from place to place, the overall picture points to the emergence of what Kendall and Fridland (2014) term the Elsewhere Dialect. In this talk, I’ll present evidence that the Elsewhere Dialect is replacing the traditional Northern Cities Shift vowel system in Lower Michigan as well. This process of replacement deserves particular attention because Michiganders are reportedly highly linguistically secure: In their opinion, Michigan speech sounds ‘normal’ and accentless (Preston 2017 inter alia). Why would they exchange one vowel system for another when they have had no obvious social motivation for doing so? In addressing this question, I’ll draw upon our research group’s collective work in Lansing, Michigan, comprising analysis of archival and contemporary interviews, attitudes surveys, perception experiments and sociohistorical resources (e.g. Wagner et al 2016).

Bio: Suzanne Evans Wagner is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Michigan State University. She focuses on post-adolescent sociolinguistic modification, particularly with respect to community language change. She has published in Language Variation and Change and Language in Society, and is a co-editor of the Routledge Studies in Language Change series.

Friday, December 8, 2017 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Poulton Hall, 230
1421 37th St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events


Georgetown College, Linguistics


Suzanne Evans Wagner

Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Jennie Brusstar

Event Contact Email

Accommodations Contact Name

Jennie Brusstar

Accommodations Contact Email

Google Calendar iCal Outlook

Recent Activity