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Auteur: Keiko HIRANO

A new-dialect formation in an L2 setting: A rudimentary levelling among native speakers of English in Japan

Abstract/Résumé: This paper aims to examine the rudimentary levelling process observed in an extremely early stage of new-dialect formation in a second language setting. The current study investigates a community of people who have just moved to the new linguistic environment and who mix with speakers of different regional varieties in a second language setting: a community of native speakers of English (NSsE) that has moved to Japan to work for a few years. Dialect contact may occur in a place where English is not the primary language. The Anglophone community in Japan is not at all homogeneous. It consists of a mixture of nationalities who are socially and geographically mobile. Their relationships are, therefore, often established on a short-term basis, but they are linked with people from a wide range of social contexts. The dialect contact situation in this Anglophone community can be considered to be comparable to the extreme beginning stages of koineisation or new-dialect formation. In the present research, the variation and modification in the informants’ pronunciation of (t) are observed over a period of one year from arrival in Japan. The informants consist of NSsE from England, the US and New Zealand living in Japan. In accordance with Mufwene’s ‘founder principle’ (1996), the proportions of NSsE from various countries in this Anglophone community investigated for the present study would imply that the main input variety of English has always been American English since World War II. Also, the political influence of the United States has been enormous in Japan. It is likely, therefore, that the variants of American English will dominate the ‘feature pool’ (Mufwene 2001), a mixture of linguistic features in a dialect contact situation, in this community. The process of rudimentary levelling will be explored and analysed in relation to the founder principle and the feature pool.