Doctoral Dissertation Research: High school choice and the social meanings of NCS reversal in Chicago

Project: Research project

Project Details


Recent work among adults has found that the type of high school an individual attended can influence engagement with regionalized features into adulthood (Dodsworth & Benton 2017; Carmichael 2014; Duncan 2020; Labov et al. 2016; D’Onofrio & Benheim 2020). However, although adolescents often lead sound changes (Eckert 2000; Labov 2001), these high school choice effects remain unexplored among high school students themselves. In Chicago, the Northern Cities Shift (NCS) – a regionalized vocalic system historically and ideologically associated with White working class personae – is undergoing reversal among younger White speakers (McCarthy 2011), though Catholic high school alumni in one community area were found to be less reversed (i.e., more Northern Cities Shifted) than their peers who attended other high school types (D’Onofrio & Benheim 2020). Through sociolinguistic interviews, social evaluation tasks, and perceptual dialectology with Chicago-area adolescents, this project examines the social meanings that high school students attribute to the NCS, exploring how adolescents’ own understandings of the social meanings of linguistic features relate to their social environments in school and how these understandings, in turn, might influence engagement with these features in production.
Effective start/end date8/1/211/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-2116957)


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