Variation in the realization of /εi/ by Dutch youngsters: from local urban dialects to emerging ethnolects?

F.L.M.P. Hinskens, Linda van Meel, Roeland van Hout

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How do speakers of current Turkish and Moroccan ethnolects of Dutch deal with phonemes that do not exist in their heritage languages and that are at the same time subject to pronounced regional and social variation in the Dutch speech community at large, such as the Dutch diphthong /εi/? This diphthong does not occur in Turkish and Berber and it occurs only as a dialectal allophone in certain dialects of Moroccan Arabic.
Data from speakers from the Amsterdam and Nijmegen urban areas are studied.
In the Amsterdam dialect, the diphthong is traditionally subject to monophthongization and lowering, yielding realizations as [æ:] or [a:], while in Nijmegen the diphthong is only subject to monophthongization, resulting in the variant [ε:]. Recently, a new lowered, diphthongal variant [ai] entered colloquial spoken standard Dutch. Therefore, ethnolect speakers have a wide range of variants to ‘choose’ from: the traditional standard Dutch variant [εi], the new variant [ai], which is expanding areally and socially, and the monophthongal variants of the surrounding urban dialects.
Two variable properties of /εi/ are examined: (1) height of the prominent first
element, and (2) the degree of monophthongization. The urban dialect features
which had developed into sociolect features over the past generations appear to be undergoing social redistribution to become ethnolect markers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46
Number of pages74
JournalDialectologia et Geolinguistica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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