Before the storm there wasn't much of a thought. When Katrina happened, that changed everything: Social network geometry, discourses of threat, and English usage among Latinxs in post-Katrina New Orleans
This dissertation presents the results of a tripartite exploration of English use by Latinxs in post-Katrina New Orleans, defined here as an ethnolinguistic repertoire that I call New Orleans Latinx English (NOLAE). The project considers how contemporary English use differs from that found in a pre-Katrina sample, how social network geometry influences linguistic performance, and how the localized discursive articulation of the Latinx community shapes the sociolinguistic context. I find that while vowel realization patterns provide no evidence of large-scale deviation across the pre-and-post Katrina samples, there are four vowels which exhibit statistically significant divergence. In each of these cases, the post-Katrina sample is more variable. I also illustrate that the geometry of the local Latinx social network, defined in terms of neighborhood affiliations, has a statistically significant impact on the realization of linguistic variables. Finally, I demonstrate that Spanish and Spanish-influenced English are discursively constructed as marked linguistic performance, leading local Latinxs to aspire to ‘standard’ English performance in public spaces. Differential experiences of this pressure is posited to underlie much of the linguistic variation observed in NOLAE, both across the pre-and-post-Katrina samples and within the contemporary sample.