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Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Variety of English and its Usage

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  1. Introduction
  2. Dialect defined
  3. Language > Dialect > Idiolect
  4. Dialect as identity
  5. Geographical influences on dialect
  6. Possible causes of the decreasing use of dialect as identity
  7. Population change
  8. Economic structure
  9. The resort Industry cluster
    1. Construction
    2. Health services
  10. Conclusion
  11. Bibliography

Every time a person opens his or her mouth to speak that person is speaking not only a language but a dialect of that language as well. It is a common misconception that only certain people whose pronunciations vary from what is considered Standard American English, speak a dialect. In fact, there are so many different dialects of American English today that it has been said looking at the different varieties is like looking at varieties of the American climate, ?how many we find depends on how closely we look.? 1
In this paper I would like to take a closer look at one of the common uses of a dialect, namely, the use of a dialect as a form of identity. I would also like to examine factors that could potentially alter whether or not a person continues to use a dialect in this manner. I have previously done some research on the Finnish influenced dialect of English found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (2002) and its use as a form of identity and I see many similarities with William Labov's findings regarding dialect as a form of identity on Martha's Vineyard (1962, 1972).

[...] As previously indicated, I did not see evidence of decreased usage of the Upper Peninsula dialect or of the dialect losing its strength as an identity marker. William Labov also concluded that this was an important use of the dialect on Martha's Vineyard in the 1960's and early 1970's. However, it has now been over forty years since Labov's original research in 1962. So in an attempt to answer the question of what else could be responsible for dialect usage change, it becomes clear that there is a need to identify changes to the societal structure that may contribute to language change. [...]

[...] Martha's Vineyard Population Change by Decade + + + In contrast, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has continued a trend of alternating growth and decline from one decade to the next that began in 1910.17 It should also be noted that during the decades of growth, the rate of increase has been minute compared to that of Martha's Vineyard (see U.S. Census Bureau table below). Upper Peninsula Population Change by Decade + -.05% + - + Another facet of the population increase on Martha's Vineyard that surely contributes to the changing attitudes of native islanders is that several politicians and celebrities now reside on the island and thusly are a part of the population increase. [...]

[...] Sisu is a Finnish word with no exact English translation that denotes a strong sense of pride and determination.11 This word has become part of the Upper Peninsula dialect and reflects the reason its speakers continue to use the dialect. They want it to be known that they are hard-working, independent and proud like the Finnish miners of the past. An important facet of the use of dialect as identity is that speaker attitude is encoded in this use of dialect. [...]

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