The speech of one family : a phonetic comparison of the speech of three generations in a family of East Londoners
A study of the speech of one family, obviously crucially important for an understanding of the nature of sound-change and variation, was first, and last, made at the end of the last century by Rousselot. With no knowledge of modern structuralism he could not make a comparative analysis which would satisfy modern descriptive linguists. This thesis proposes a new structural method for describing variation in pronunciation with a referential framework postulated on the basis of words. Various implications of this method are discussed. About one-third of the recorded speech of the Informants is then compared in an extremely detailed manner, revealing a high degree of idiosyncratic variation both in and between individuals, such as has not hitherto been described with reference to any dialect. It is shown that certain specific words may and often do have quite characteristic pronunciations which differentiate them from other words which in a conventional phonemic analysis would probably be spelt with the same phoneme. Furthermore, it is shown that the basic phonological units which may differentiate words, can, and, in fact often do, overlap phonetically. A fairly noticeable degree of difference between individuals was detected. There is a good deal of research which remains to be done before the fullest possible conclusions can be drawn from the material, but this thesis shows the way towards the conclusions both in the new method of description and the nature of the facts revealed by it. To the author's knowledge, no such detailed study of variation in speech has been made before and it is in the wealth of detailed statements about variation that hints at the answers to questions about the intimate mechanisms of sound-change are to be found. This study makes a start at collecting and organizing such hints.