Talking Anchorage

43rd New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) conference

This paper is an initial investigation into the regional variation of English in Anchorage, AK, an urban environment set on the edge of wilderness. Anchorage English in contact with around 95 other languages, including 19 Alaska Native indigenous languages. Parts of Anchorage are so linguistically diverse, in fact, that some of its neighborhoods have been labeled the most diverse in the nation, scoring higher on the diversity index than Queens in New York. While English still is the lingua franca of the area, Anchorage English has not been systematically documented or investigated. Our project of Talking Anchorage is working towards understanding the boundaries of English within this urban space. And, our long-term research question is this: will variation between neighborhoods in Anchorage be best explained by traditional sociolinguistic accounts of language variation within urban environments—that is, that urban areas are effectively linguistically monolithic, with variation within these environments better explained by social factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity? OR, do our data fit better within a non-normative and fluid schematic such as represented by Pennycook’s construct of metrolingualism—that is, one that resists traditional assumptions of language use and its ties to specific sociocultural classifications? Specifically, for this presentation, we are introducing data from two Anchorage neighborhoods, Fairview and Government Hill to begin to move towards a better understanding of how language variation is negotiated in this urban space. <Presentation handout>

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