The goal of this research is to examine and describe language change in Newfoundland English. The primary site of investigation is the amalgamated town of Placentia. This research will be conducted using a variationist linguistic framework. In this theoretical approach, variation in language use is seen to be structured, not random, and this structure can be discovered by studying the correlation of linguistic variables and social and linguistic factors. Building on current initiatives of the Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory (MUSL), this research will provide clues to how language changes in transition areas under the apparent time hypothesis, where observing different age groups at the same time reveals information about developments over time. I will attempt to discern how social forces such as resettlement, out-migration and the introduction and closure of the Fort McAndrew American Air Force Base (during which there existed prime conditions for dialect mixing) have affected present day speech. In addition, discourse on linguistic identity of some in the region focuses on an American orientation. Those who had close contact with the Americans report that they were so heavily influenced by the Americans they now speak like Americans, not Newfoundlanders. This research will add to our understanding of identity creation through language choices.
This project will focus on two salient phonetic (sound) variables: frication of oral stops and interdental stopping. Frication is a process where the sounds /p,t,k,b,d,g/ -all sounds where there is a complete blockage in the oral cavity- are produced with a flattened tongue and a wide mouth opening. A /t/ produced in this manner becomes a fricative-like sound, like /s/. This process is particularly noticeable in the word-final position and before a pause. Interdental stopping is a process by which the /th/ sounds in thin and this become [t] in tin and [d] in dis. Variationist research is crucial in fostering an understanding of how language is changing in this province, how these changes spread and which social factors condition changes. The region's placement relative to the major urban center of St. John's makes it an ideal region in which to carry out variationist research under the hypothesis that older traditional forms persist longer in areas that are more rural. The recent history of Placentia and neighbouring Argentia affords the opportunity to examine the lasting influence of the past American presence.