Hierarchical clustering for the study of sound change in the community
Philadelphia English exhibits a number of well-studied vowel changes that take place gradually over the course of the 20th century. Labov, Rosenfelder & Fruehwald (2013) show that some of these changes continue in a single direction throughout this time period, while others reverse direction around the middle of the century. In this talk I will discuss an ongoing collaborative project with Dr. Lacey Wade where we use hierarchical clustering to group speakers based on the covariation of multiple vowels, rather than tracking each vowel’s diachronic trajectory independently. The hierarchical clustering approach allows us to detect speaker-level profiles that are present in the community over the course of the century, offering novel insights into how the features that we now think of as typifying “the Philly accent” emerged, coalesced, and began to decline.