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PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Helene Hildremyr

New-dialect formation: Language changes in Odda and Tyssedal over the last hundred years

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My sociolinguistic PhD project is a longitudinal study which investigates the development of the spoken language in the industrial towns of Odda and Tyssedal. These towns are situated in Sørfjorden in Hardanger, six kilometers from each other in the western part of Norway. Odda and Tyssedal developed as industrial towns in the beginning of the 20th century, and they both experienced a rapid growth of population. Only 40 people lived in Tyssedal before the industrialization started in 1906 (it reached its peak in 1950 with 1600 inhabitants), in O the population was about 500 (it reached its peak in 1970 with 7500 inhabitants).

People moved to the new towns from all over the country and from abroad to work and live in Odda and Tyssedal, and within a short period of time completely new communities were formed. In the establishing phase the places were both social and linguistic melting pots, and the “original” dialect of these places was changed because of weak local linguistic models: Those who lived in the area before the industrialisation process started were too few to “neutralize” the newcomers linguistically and a process of new-dialect formation started in both places. Considerable differences developed between the two new dialects, although they had virtually identical dialects before the industrialization began. Today, however, a levelling process is evident.

My project has got both a synchronic and a diachronic perspective. For the synchronic study I have collected new data of spoken language from three generations of men and women through structured interviews, and I investigate the dialect situation and the patterns of variation in the two towns today (2013). By using older data (recordings and written descriptions of the dialects from 1959 to the 1980s) I investigate the dialect changes diachronically and seek to understand the linguistic lines of development from the establishment of the industry until today.

Some of the linguistic variables that I work with are: the lexical variable of the adverb expressing negation (ikkje vs. ikke), the lexical variables of the first person personal pronoun singular (eg vs. jeg) and plural (me vs. vi), the phonological variable of the diphthong (ei) vs. monophthong (e) (in verbs and nouns) and the morphological variables of the inflection of the feminine and masculine nouns.