Dr. Frances Blanchette (CLS, Penn State)
November 10, 2023
9:00 am

Dr. Frances Blanchette (CLS, Penn State)


    "Sound, Structure, and Meaning in Central Pennsylvanian English: Evidence from Experiments"

Frances Blanchette, Ph.D.
 Assistant Director, Center for Language Science
 Associate Research Professor, Psychology
 Penn State

           Friday, November 10  9:00–10:30 a.m. EST
            Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library

This talk presents results from two studies that explore regional features of Central Pennsylvanian English, part of a larger Central Pennsylvania Dialect Project that aims to contribute to our understanding of variation in this region. Located toward the north end of the Appalachian Mountain range and overlapping with the Midland Dialect region, Central Pennsylvania is shaped by a unique set of factors contributing to the emergence of a diverse range of linguistic features. One study explores an intonational pattern known as the Pennsylvania (PA) Dutch question, which is marked by a final rising and falling prosodic tune in polar (yes-no) questions. A pair of production and perception experiments contribute new information on both the prosodic tune and the pragmatic meaning of this regional variant. Another study explores the acceptability of different verbs within the “needs washed” construction (e.g., “the car needs washed”, “the baby wants cuddled”). Replicating patterns from studies of naturalistic usage, we provide new information on how the semantic relationship between the subject (e.g., the car, the baby) and the verb (e.g., needs, wants) shapes acceptability of this construction. Since both studies involve comparison with a control group of speakers from outside the region, the results further lend themselves to broader discussion of what constitutes shared knowledge in contexts of dialect diversity, and how we might identify and delineate genuine grammatical differences that exist across groups.