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The Social Stratification of (r) in NYC

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Patrick Gohrenz

on 11 November 2014

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Transcript of The Social Stratification of (r) in NYC

Variationalist Sociolinguistics
WiSe 2014/2015

The Social Stratification of (r) in New York City Department stores
Katie Hahn, Patrick Gohrenz, Erik Eising and Darius Scherer
The Outline
1. General Facts about Manhattan and Introduction

2. Conduction of the study

3. Results of the study

4. Revisiting New York department stores
(panel study by Patrick-André Mather)
Labov´s Hypothesis
“if any two subgroups of New York City
speakers are ranked in a scale of social
stratification, then they will be ranked in the
same order by their differential use of (r).”

Barber´s Definition on
Social Stratification
“Social Stratification is the product of social differentiation and social evaluation. The use of this term does not imply any specific type of class or social caste, but simply that the normal workings of society have produced systematic differences between certain institutions or people, and that these differentiated forms have been ranked in status or prestige by general agreement.”

General Facts:
- Population of 1.6 million inhabitants

- highest living costs in the US

- Nationwide highest income inequality

- often considered as the heart of culture of NYC

A: Saks Fifth Avenue
611 5th Ave,
New York, NY 10022

B: Macy´s Herald Square
151 West 34th Street,
New York,
NY 10001-2101

S. Klein Union Square
32 Union Square E,
New York, NY 10003
The Department Stores
No. of pages of advertising October 24-27, 1962

NY Times Daily News
Saks 2 0
Macy´s 2 15
S. Klein 1/4 10

(Taken from Labov
1. General Facts about Manhattan and Introduction
2. The Study

3. Results/Conclusion

4. Revisiting New York department stores: Patrick-André Mather

5. Sources
... Any questions?

Thank You and Goodbye!
Results of the study
Results showed consistent, clear stratification of the (r) in the three stores

as Labov predicted, the store with the highest prestige showed the most speakers using (r-1) always or sometimes

 employees are ranked by their use of (r) in the same order as their extralinguistic stratification
Total employees using all or some (r-1):
Saks – 62% ; Macy‘s – 51% ; S. Klein - 20%
Sharpest stratification in the percentages of all (r-1)

Sample population
Independent variables
The store (Saks, Macy‘s, Klein)
Floor and department within the store
Age (estimated, units of 5 years)
Occupation (sales, floorwalker, cashier, stockroom worker)
Foreign or regional accent, if existing

Distribution of (r) in the four positions:
r-pronunciation raises in emphatic speech
Saks employees have most linguistic security
The r-pronunciation is the norm that Macy‘s employees aim at

Mather repeated Labov‘s 1966 study in 2009, after Fowler in 1986
Panel study
Interviewed employees at Saks, Macy‘s, Filene‘s Basement and Loehrman‘s (last 2 stores = low-end, similar to S. Klein in prestige and location)

Overall frenquency of postvocalic (r) increased dramatically since Labov‘s study
In every store, but especially Saks: floor (empathic) is pronounced with (r-1) 80% of the time (compared to 62% in 1966)
sound change almost complete at the upper end of social hierarchy (h-variety of New York English)

Age distribution changed
In 1966, younger employees adopted new (r) variable more frequently at Saks; BUT older employees at Macy‘s
In 2012, younger speakers of all stores used (r) more frenquently than older speakers
African American employees use (r) less frequently than Causaian employees
However, both groups had the same pattern of social and stylistic differentiation
Additionally, employees of lower-end stores were mostly African American or Hispanic
ethnolinguistic factor not found in Labov

Salespeople and employees of the three stores Saks, Macy‘s and S. Klein
stratified by the working conditions of the sales jobs and the social prestige of the stores they work at
what was not important were the wages in the different stores

Interview method
Systematic sampling of casual and anonymous speech events
Wanted to avoid the controlled, formal speech of monitored interviews
Rather: a study of the speaker in their natural social context, interacting without consciously monitoring their speech

Casual and anonymous speech events
Interviewer as customer asked for the department which was on the 4th floor
"Excuse me, where are the women's shoes?"
"Fourth floor."
"Excuse me?"
Fourth floor.
For the employee: normal salesperson-customer relationship
Almost below conscious attention
Therefore, minimal modification of the subject‘s speech and behaviour
Language use remains as natural and unmonitored as possible
Interview evaluation
Employee‘s use or (r) can be observed in preconsonantal and final position, in normal and emphatic speech pattern
If (r) = plainly constricted, interviewer enters (r-1)
If (r) = reduced schwa sound, interviewer enters (r-0)

Method was repeated as often as possible
Total: 264 ‚interviews‘ in 71h
Conducted ‚interviews‘:
Saks – 68
Macy‘s – 125
S. Klein – 71

Allen, Lewis Irving. "The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech", Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Labov, William. "The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics", 1966. Print.

Maffi, Mario. "Gateway to the Promised Land: Ethnic Cultures on the Lower Eastside", Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994

Mather, Patrick-André. „The social stratification of /r/ in New York City: Labov’s department store study revisited“.
Journal of English Linguistics
40 (4): 338-365. 2012.
„Development of Broadcast Standard US English.“
Do you speak American?
. Youtube. 09 November 2014
What Labov got: the (r) was used in four occurrences
th floo
th floo
preconsonantal and in final position
Still today one of Labov´s most popular studies
- urban, variation study
- observed the realization of the consonant (r)
- used secret data collective interviews
Full transcript