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Auteur: Magnus HUBER

A variationist approach to the phonological history of an Outer Circle variety: Early recordings from Ghana

Abstract/Résumé: The growing interest in World Englishes has been accompanied by an explosive number of synchronic studies but investigations of the structural development of these varieties are still the exception. The latter are often restricted to outlines from a macro-sociolinguistic perspective, with little reference to linguistic structure. One main reason for this lack of diachronic studies is that authentic historical data have not been located and tapped yet. The situation is somewhat less problematic with regard to written texts, but there are comparatively few early recordings of post-/colonial Englishes. Focussing on Ghanaian English, this paper adopts a variationist approach and explores some ways in which early radio broadcasts and recordings of political speeches from the 1950s and 1960s, stored in the archives of the Ghana Broadcasting Company, can be used to reconstruct the phonological development of this variety. This complements a previous study (Huber & Schmidt 2011), which used early popular music recordings as data for the investigation of the history of Ghanaian English vowels. That study found substantial changes and it will be interesting to see whether radio broadcasts and political speeches show similar developments. I will present the first results of an analysis of the radio material and speeches collected, digitized and transcribed so far. The method chosen is an auditive analysis of phonological variables that show variation in present-day Ghanaian English. For example, the STRUT lexical set is today variously realized with three different vowels in Ghanaian English, /a, ε, כ/. The popular music study showed that while /a/ was already the dominant variant around 1960, it has steadily gained ground in the past 50 years. Other variables of potential interest include the lowering of the KIT vowel, neutralization of FOOT-GOOSE, KIT-FLEECE and CLOTH-THOUGHT, smoothing of PRICE and MOUTH, th-stopping and (ng): [ŋ] ~ [n]. I will also discuss the implications of my results for the development of Ghanaian English in particular and for developmental models of varieties of English in general. Diachronic studies based on recordings and focussing on language structure can make a significant contribution to models such as Schneider's (2007) 5-stage evolutionary model, that have for the most part been based on external language history and synchronic structural data. References Huber, Magnus & Sebastian Schmidt. 2011. "New ways of analysing the history of varieties of English. Early Highlife recordings from Ghana". Paper at 2nd ISLE Conference, Boston, USA, 17-21 June 2011. Schneider, Edgar W. 2007. Postcolonial English. Varieties around the world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.