Date of Award

Fall 12-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Foreign Languages and Literature

First Advisor

Christopher Miles

Advisor Department

Foreign Languages and Literature


It is generally assumed that students who study a target language in a particular country or region will gain the dialectical features of the place in which they had studied. While the current body of research generally supports this finding, dialectical adaptation to a specific area does not occur equally among all individuals, and studies that attempt to explain this resulting degree of dialectical adaptation based on individual and social factors is one that still needs greater attention. This investigation sought to examine the extent of dialectical adaptation to Southern American English (SAE) in six Spanish-speaking English Language Learners who were either pre-matriculated students who were taking intensive English language classes or matriculated students who were already taking regular university courses. Each individual’s degree of dialectical adaptation (phonology, lexicon, & morphosyntax) was scrutinized in terms of individual personality traits (by the Five Factor Model of Personality) and in terms of sociopsychological characteristics (by Schumann’s Model of Acculturation). Findings from the investigation demonstrated that dialectical adaptation to Southern American English by all participants was minimal, if not nonexistent. Even though that was the case, all of the participants demonstrated dialectical adaptation to standard American English through their use of colloquialisms found within the standard. In other words, the participants, consciously or unconsciously, did not assimilate factors of Southern American English and instead adopted features of the “standard” of American English. Posited explanations for these phenomena include hypercorrection via sociolinguistic pressure, dialectical levelling among the youth, and the critical period hypothesis. Within the investigation, the factors that were determined to be the most influential to one’s resulting degree of dialectical adaptation included the factors of v motivation, group cohesiveness, individual motivations/interests, and enclosure. In addition to these factors, the relationship between dialectical assimilation and the level of target language proficiency upon arrival to the host country was also shown to be impactful. Conclusions drawn from this study can be used to explain why some individuals who move to a foreign environment assimilate their new area’s linguistic patterns, as opposed to those who do not.