LINGUIST List 16.669

Mon Mar 07 2005

Qs: Australian A-Lengthening;Pittsburgh/Dallas Accents

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        1.    Tonio Green, Australian A-Lengthening
        2.    Tom Kun, Pittsburgh and Dallas Accents

Message 1: Australian A-Lengthening

Date: 07-Mar-2005
From: Tonio Green <>
Subject: Australian A-Lengthening


Can anyone confirm or deny the existence of a "lengthened short a" in
Australian English, in particular an apparent phonemic split between short
[ae] in 'lad', 'can' (modal verb) and [ae:] in 'bad', 'can' (noun)? If
real, this is of course strongly reminiscent of the distinction between lax
and tense [ae] in New York City. J. C. Wells' "Accents of English" only
mentions lengthening of [ae] in monosyllables in Australian, which can be
maintained when class 2 suffixes are added, allowing for pairs like
h[ae]mmer 'mallet-like tool' vs. h[ae:]mmer 'one who hams', but says
nothing about a c[ae]n/c[ae:n] contrast. Are there any Australians here who
have contrasts like c[ae]n/c[ae:n] or l[ae]d/b[ae:d]? Has anything been
published about this?

Thanks in advance!
-- Tonio Green

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Message 2: Pittsburgh and Dallas Accents

Date: 07-Mar-2005
From: Tom Kun <>
Subject: Pittsburgh and Dallas Accents

I'm not a ''linguist'' as such, that is, I don't have a degree, but I'm a
bit of an accent enthusiast who reads lots of linguistic research papers
and listens to how people pronounce words. I also run a website about
regional accents at:

I actually have two questions. The first is about some seemingly
conflicting data about a city I've never been in: Pittsburgh. The Atlas of
North American English (ANAE) shows that, as in Canada, /o/ and /oh/ (cot
and caught) are merged in low-back-rounded position. Unlike in the
Canadian Shift, their subjects in Pittsburgh also had /^/ lowered into
low-central position, and this is supposed to be blocking /ae/ from
lowering. However, I also read a recent paper abstract by Corrine McCarthy
( ) which claims that the
glide deletion of /aw/ (as in ''dahntahn'') was blocking the
/ae/-retraction. She did a study of Pittsburgh and found that as
/aw/-monophthongization recedes, /ae/-retraction was occuring. So, does
this have any effect on /^/-lowering?

My second question is about the city where I live, Dallas. Like I said
before, I like to listen to people and notice how they pronounce vowels,
and I think I'm hearing the beginnings of the Canadian Shift down here.
Pronouncing /o/ as a low back rounded vowel was a traditional Southern
feature, and younger speakers here still do this. A few weeks ago this
girl was saying ''pond'' and I thought she was saying ''pawn.'' (I'm from
Ohio). Well, I am also noticing some /ae/-retraction here. I have a
theory about this, but since I don't have any degrees in linguistics, I
don't want to put it on my website until someone with some credentials
tells me I'm on the right track. My theory is that glide deletion of /ay/,
the first stage of the Southern Shift, was blocking the /ae/ retraction,
since it was pronounced in low central position. As the salient Southern
accent features recede in this city, /ay/ is becoming diphthongal again,
thus providing a space for /ae/ to fall into--just like in Canada. So am I
on the right track here?

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

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