Social meaning and the obsolescence of traditional local structures
Loss of h-dropping in Maryport, West Cumbria
This paper discusses the obsolescence of h-dropping as a local feature in Maryport, West Cumbria. Using sociolinguistic interview data, a quantitative approach and mixed-effects modelling is used to explain the linguistic changes in the community. Sociolinguistic accounts of h-dropping always state that the feature is and has been stigmatised in England since the 18th century. However, the oldest speakers in the sample do not change their level of h-dropping in more formal speech styles, which indicates that the standard language ideology of “proper” English might not be pervasive for them. However, for speakers born after 1960 the use of h-dropping is decreasing in apparent time. From the 1960s onwards, Maryport has seen social change as the strong neighbourhood ties broke up and from the 1980s experienced strong job losses. I argue that these social changes are correlated with the decline and eventual obsolescence of h-dropping in the community.
Keywords: h-dropping, social meaning, obsolescence, West Cumbria, dialect contact, weak ties, social change
Published online: 27 January 2021
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