On the isolated Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands in the western Pacific Ocean, the English language has been in use for close to two centuries. The first human residents arrived in 1830, and one individual from Massachusetts, in particular, left his progeny and his mark on island society. In this paper, we analyze tape recordings made in the 1970s of a speaker born (in 1881) and raised on the islands and demonstrate that his vowel system remarkably resembles that of Eastern New England, in particular that he maintains a phonemic distinction between NORTH and FORCE vowels. We discuss other conservative dialect features of his speech, such as a nonlabiodental variant of /v/ ((ß- ), which appears in complementary distribution with the mainsteam (v) variant, and contact features, such as th -stopping. In order to place this language variety, this speaker, and these recordings within their sociohistorical context, we provide a description of these unique islands and their complex linguistic heritage.
American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage – Duke University Press
Published: Dec 1, 2004