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**Linguistic Variation and Change in Puerto Rican Philadelphia** ============================================================ In this project, I analyze Philadelphia Puerto Ricans’ adoption of three sound changes in-progress in the greater metropolitan area—filling a curious lacuna in an otherwise well-studied speech community. Conversational and read speech data were collected in the field alongside sociodemographic information, permitting a detailed description of the usage patterns of this longstanding minority population and an assessment of their linguistic production relative to the larger (predominately white) majority community. Each of the three sound changes analyzed has a distinct level of social awareness in the majority community and is at a distinct point along the typical trajectory of language change. Ey-Raising, where /eɪ/ raises in closed syllables to make fate sound more like feet, lies under the level of social awareness and is geographically restricted to Philadelphia. Raising of /aɪ/ before voiceless codas (‘Canadian Raising’), where the vowels in price and prize cease to be homophonous, is a marker present in many areas of the northern United States, which in Philadelphia shows style shifting but no clear independent effects of socioeconomic status. Finally, /ɔ/ lowering is a stereotype wherein a raised mid-high or high variant of /ɔ/, leading to the characteristic "wooder" pronunciation of water, has reversed its trajectory and is lowering toward its original height—likely driven by a desire to distance oneself from stigmatized, working-class speech. Despite limited contact with white Philadelphians, the common belief that they speak poor, accented English, and the general folk wisdom that minorities don’t participate in majority sound change, Puerto Ricans have in general adopted the sound changes-in-progress in greater Philadelphia—both in overall rates and in linguistic conditioning. Of note is that while speakers show trends in line with white Philadelphians in their vocalic production, their usage patterns represent trends that have been found on a larger geographic scale. There is evidence that they are more advanced than whites in Canadian Raising, which is geographically prevalent in the northern US, and younger Puerto Rican men appear to be using the geographically ubiquitous COT-CAUGHT merger to avoid the stigmatized /ɔ/ vowel. This study provides evidence that minority speakers, who may have weaker ties to the majority speech patterns, may be more adaptable to changes in-progress in their surroundings than majority speakers. While participation in the Philadelphia-centric EY-Raising increases with social network density, the geographically widespread Canadian Raising shows a negative relationship between graph metrics, suggesting that weaker ties to the social network advance this change. Finally, no network effect was found for /ɔ/, suggesting that adjustments to the community-wide stereotype are not strongly influenced by network structure. This is an important finding for the fields of language change and sociolinguistics, because it raises questions for several long-held assumptions regarding the role of minority groups in advancing sound change.
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