This proposal is the second stage of a large project to examine social and linguistic factors of language variation in the West Virginia region of Appalachia. The primary goal is to determine the dialect's current status, including its regional affiliations, its relative degree of vernacularity, its sociolinguistic divisions, and its directions of change. From the research accomplished to date, it is clear that many of the traditional features of English in Appalachia are fading from WV, although some remain under the radar of social awareness. The current proposal involves computer-assisted acoustic phonetic analysis in order to enhance the description the sounds of Appalachia. Specifically, research will analyze the progression of vowel shifts (e.g."beyd" for "bed"), vowel mergers (e.g. pronouncing "pin/pen" the same), and consonantal changes (e.g. pronouncing "which/witch" the same). An additional facet of this research is the examination of rural America. Rural areas in the United States are changing, and the sociolinguistic patterns discovered will illuminate those changes.
This proposal emanates from a core EPSCoR state, and it provides worthwhile educational and community benefits. This project integrates research and education by advancing discovery and understanding for the research assistants while at the same time promoting better language awareness for teachers in K-12 schools and better training for future teachers. The research team is currently creating an interactive website that will provide an educational environment for learning about dialect history, language change, synchronic variation, and dialect attitudes. The results from this proposal will be incorporated into this educational site. The broader impacts from this project also include a more accurate description of Appalachian English, a variety much maligned in the 20th century.