In developing a greater understanding of these processes of sociolinguistic investigation, this essay examines and compares the methodological assumptions and conclusions within the theorists’ Martha’s Vineyard and Jocks and Burnouts studies.
William Labov’s seminal Martha’s Vineyard study incorporates direct linguistic observation with past recorded linguistic accounts to analyze the patterns of linguistic change among the island inhabitants of Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts. Labov identifies one of the key benefits of the study being the secluded nature of the island, and notes how this isolation is effective when formulating viable sociolinguistic analysis. While the island is sufficiently secluded, it also “has enough social and geographic complexity to provide ample room for differentiation of linguistic behavior (Labov 4).” Labov offers a description of the island and which elements of it will be included in the study, disregarding the nearly 42,000 tourists, as their transitory nature excludes them from contributing viable sociolinguistic data to the specific study.
As a result of its physical seclusion and conscious resistance to mainland Boston cultural standards, Martha’s Vineyard is understood to have retained significant features of English indicative of pre-1800 New England. Labov argues that the most prominent feature that has been retained “is the retention of final and preconsonantal /r/. New England short /o/ is still well represented among the older speakers (Labov 7).” However, he indicates that such analysis of static English morphology is not the essential concern, and that instead the study will focus on the sociolinguistic determination of change and linguistic variation throughout the island.
In addressing the factors associated with the determination of the study’s linguistic