Isolation, identity, and gender : an investigation of vowel variation in the Gloriavale Christian Community. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Linguistics
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This thesis explores the Gloriavale Christian Community, an isolated religious community currently living on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. The social structure of the community differs significantly to modern urban communities - their ‘us vs them’ ideology results in heightened isolation, intense gender segregation is part of their philosophy, and their Christian principles have allowed the community’s population to grow at an exponential rate. Given the interesting dynamics of the community, little attention has been given to the linguistic consequences which may occur. In turn, this thesis is the first to fully investigate how identity, isolation, and gender have influenced monophthongal vowel shifts in Gloriavale over three generations (settlers, first generation, second generation). This thesis takes speech data from Gloriavale documentaries and conducts sociophonetic analysis on eight monophthongal vowel shifts over three generations. This process is replicated with a North Canterbury corpus, a less isolated community, to compare the effects of Gloriavale’s unique social landscape. The results found greater degree of variation in the Gloriavale speakers than the North Canterbury speakers over three generations. An investigation into the Gloriavale data assured that this degree of variation is not an artefact of assumed Australian settlers in the data. Closer investigation into Gloriavale finds intriguing gender differences. Gloriavale women are shifting their vowels in a progressive, monotonic manner, with each generation producing vowels in different acoustic spaces. Meanwhile, the men appear to be reversing many of their vowels, with the younger men realising some vowels in similar acoustic spaces of the older men. The findings here are supported by data modelling procedures, using linear regression models with age, gender, and corpus as predictors. This thesis accounts for the key findings, with the gender findings reviewed under two paradigms. First, the gender results are accounted for under the intended apparent time construct which assumes language change over time, while the second account investigates how differences in life stages result in vowel variation over a speaker’s lifespan. The former account supports the women’s findings, while the latter account supports the men’s. This thesis identifies that regardless of different accounts for gender variation, isolation and identity are at the forefront of variation in Gloriavale. In turn, this research bridges gaps within the literature and opens possible avenues for future research.
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