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Review of  New Zealand English

Reviewer: Gerhard Leitner
Book Title: New Zealand English
Book Author: Elizabeth Gordon Lyle Campbell Jennifer B. Hay Margaret L. Maclagan Andrea Sudbury Peter Trudgill
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
Subject Language(s): None
Issue Number: 15.3398

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Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2004 08:54:55 +0100
From: Gerhard Leitner
Subject: New Zealand English: Its Origin and Evolution

AUTHORS: Gordon, Elizabeth; Campbell, Lyle; Hay, Jennifer; Maclagan,
Margaret; Sudbury, Andrea; Trudgill, Peter
TITLE: New Zealand English
SUBTITLE: Its Origin and Evolution
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2004

Gerhard Leitner, Free University of Berlin

The book under review (henceforth NZE-Origin) is the result of a long-term
research program on the early, formative history of NZE. It is based on
gramophone recordings of speakers of NZE who were born between the
early period of colonization in 1840 and the first years of the 20th century.
The oral history recordings were made by the New Zealand Broadcasting
Corporation during the late 1940s and lay dormant for decades until they
were discovered, so to speak, by NZ linguists and used for linguistic
purposes. The data have a somewhat similar history to those used by Bailey
et al. (1991) for the study of Afro-American English: neither data were
elicited for linguistic purposes and both have proven fruitful for that
purpose - with limitations. Being confined to the accent and excluding all
other levels of language, NZE-Origin paints a sophisticated picture of its
sources and of what happened thereafter until a recognizably New Zealand
accent emerged. The data have been used in many publications and,
recently, by Trudgill (2004). That book, interestingly, differs not only in its
particular focus on the idiolectal development of several of the interviewees,
but also in a number of aspects of theory and explanation. Some of them
will be mentioned later.


NZE-Origin consists of eight chapters, several appendices, an impressive
bibliography, and an index. Following the Introduction, chapters 1 to 7
focus on NZE; chapter 8 turns to implications on language change theory.
Chapter 2 reviews past local and overseas research but is extremely
selective, ignoring non-British and non-American studies (e.g. Görlach
1999). The little early research there is does not go back further than the
late 1880s, though Leitner/Taylor/Fritz (in progr.) will yield a little more.
The main source is in fact a newspaper article by a Scottish singing teacher
and school principal, Samuel McBurney, which was published in 1887; it is
used extensively by Australian linguists, who can, however, look back to a
tradition of public comments from the 1820s. As to recent research,
Trudgill (2004) must have been available but is not discussed, though,
admittedly, the gist of that book was published elsewhere and is discussed.
The next section reviews current NZE phonology, which is intended as the
background against which the so-called ONZE data should be measured. I
will turn to some features below but want to point to those that differentiate
NZE from AusE, its close neighbour. There is, for one, the closed /I/, which
is centralized to schwa, the merger of the vowel of 'bed' and the front /a/
common in AusE, NZE and the north of England. There is the retention of a
level of rhoticity in some areas, that of the /w/~/hw/ distinction and l-
vocalization (which is recent in AusE). These features play a role in the
explanation of the divergence of NZE from AusE.

Chapter 3 surveys the demography of New Zealand, focusing on countries-
of-origin (again ignoring non-British migrants), regions of origin inside the
UK, types of settlement, etc. It includes a discussion of the reference of
terms like 'English', which may but need not have included Welsh and other
Celtic speakers. The authors mention the unofficial settlements from
Australia prior to 1839, which led to the "Treaty of Waitangi" (1840) that
made NZ a de facto colony and triggered a growth in settlements thereafter.
Settlement history is divided into several brief periods. The first dates from
1840 to 1852 and brought whole migrant communities that reflected the
middle range of British society along with military people. While
these "Wakefield settlements" were not an immediate success, they provided
stability and account for six provinces. Apart from planned migration, there
was a level of unplanned migration from Britain, Ireland and Australia. The
gold rush period between 1853 and 1870 marks the second period and led
to a tenfold increase of Anglo-Irish migrants, reaching the figure of
250,000. Social unrest and mobility were key elements, as in Australia, and
led to a high level of mixing and, by implication, linguistic diffusion. The
years from 1871 to 1900 saw government-assisted programs but, due to
the depression at the end of the century, large-scale emigration. The
regional background and settlement patterns of migrants from Britain,
Scotland and Ireland are relevant for an understanding of accent patterns
and are dealt with in detail. As to settlement, relatively homogeneous
Scottish, English and mixed settlements turn out to be relevant. Section 3
turns to social stratification and education and is provides data for chapters
7 and 8, where the respective role of social factors as against phonetic ones
is contrasted. That section looks at the relationship with Australia, the role
of trade unions, the growth of nationalism around the 1880s after a short
colonial period, if compared with Australia.

Chapter 4 surveys previous approaches to the history of NZE and reviews
the well-known Cockney hypothesis, the denigration of NZE as 'bad'
English, the role of Australia, dialect transplantation, etc. As they are
evaluated in chapter 7 in light of the findings of the detailed data
investigation, I will come to details later. What is worth singling out here is a
point quoted from Ellis (1889: 236), i.e. that "The English alters in
That role of on-going immigration after the formative period is lost
altogether and the effects of education are downplayed, though
sociolinguists concerned with codification and the growth of standards
always show its importance.

Chapter 5 elaborates on the history of the data and the methodologies used
to analyze them. As said above, the data have come from a national
employment program for returned servicemen. A group was sent on three
tours to nearly forty towns, small towns and other locations between 1946
an 1948 to record oral histories from locals who had lived in the area for
most of their lives. Interviewees wrote notes on the social, regional or
educational backgrounds of the interviewees but these notes have often
been lost or were unusable for other reasons. Those that could be used
function as a criterion to select some 115 speakers from the total of 201
speakers. Those 115 are fall into unequal groups, representing gender,
age, the two islands, and a range of background in England, Scotland,
Ireland and Australia. They cover the period from 1851 to 1905. Interviews
were transcribed, digitized and subjected to three overlapping methods. A
broad auditory study was done with 95 speakers; an auditory quantitative
study with 59 and an acoustic one with ten speakers. NZE-Origin used high-
level statistical methods in all areas and focuses on those that could be
shown to be highly significant in chapters 7 and 8.

Chapter 6 turns to the study of nineteen variables: (i) short and long
monophthongs, (ii) rising diphthongs, (iii) centring diphthongs, (iv) the
central strong and weak vowel, (v) rhoticity (in light of close-knit Scottish
settlements), (vi) h-dropping, (vii) the role of the /w ~ wh/ distinction, and,
finally, (viii) the articulation and loss of /l/. As to social variables, gender,
age, country/region-of-origin, type of settlement (urban~rural and
ethnically cohesive~mixed) and a few other factors are investigated. As to
time, a distinction between the period before 1875 and thereafter is found
useful. The former period covers an older layer of the native-born, who are
supposed to show more conservative features than the latter but that is not
argued cogently. Turning to presentation, sections start with a summary of
English in England, Scotland and Ireland during the 19th century and turn
to the likely source of the input into NZE. They move on to commentaries
found in NZ, though, sadly, the only relevant early source is McBurney. A
wider spectrum is found after 1900. NZE-Origin then shifts to the results of
the three methods of analysis. The whole study builds up to highly complex
set of findings and hypotheses that crystallize into a discussion of the origin
of NZE and the development from the 1840s in chapter 7. I cannot do
justice to the detailed data, analyses and interpretations and will select a
few that reflect the time line, the role of the diversity of inputs, and bear
upon the underlying theory of the study.

Crucial to NZE is the quality of short and long monophthongs and rising
diphthongs. Short vowels are, as in AusE, relatively close and have been
seen as being involved in a Second Great Vowel shift. NZE-Origin explores
the situation in BrE at the time of and prior to the formation of NZ. The
vowel in 'bed', for instance, was shown to have been relatively high in the
south-east of England from the end of the 18th century but acquired that
quality only towards the end of the 19th century in London. It is found that
close variants were available at the beginning of settlement. As to NZ, some
36 per cent of tokens were raised to an open [e]; the remainder were low.
Close variants were found all over NZ, in all settlements types and above all
by women. There was an increase after 1875. All settlements underwent
raising, but especially Scottish and English ones. But the authors suspect
that individuals may play a significant idiosyncratic role. Yet, I would
suggest that the patterns of Scottish and English background migrants are
still relevant. Regarding the vowel in 'cat', a raised variant was apparently
common in London but not in ScotE. Yet, /e/ was not raised much in NZ.
Overall, nearly 60 per cent of all tokens were low and it was, interestingly,
speakers with Scottish parents that used raised variants more than anybody
else. A clear sign of 'focussing', one might think, and of accommodation,
most of all by the Scots who had none of it in their native accent. There was
also some progression in terms of time and all groups participated, which
eventually led to the level today.

As the KIT vowel marks a significant difference from today's AusE, it is
important to know if that difference was foreshadowed at the formative
period or was a later development. A relatively close variant was apparently
common in much of 19th century England, while it was centralizing
somewhat in ScotE and a few southern EngE accents. In NZE there were two
trends, one was the centralization towards an early start of a schwa, the
other one was raising as in AusE. The authors found no strong centralizing
trend but did reveal a slightly higher level among the Scottish and Irish
background NZers, in Scottish settlements and women in these groups.
Raised types were common among the Irish and English and in English
settlements. Incidentally, Australian background also showed a high level of
raised variants. On balance, the authors argue that early NZE may have been
similar to AusE but that centralization was beginning to show up. In light of
what will be said later I should point out that if centralization eventually
took over, raising had to be reversed!

I will be brief on long monophthongs and rising diphthongs, which are so
typical of NZE and AusE. (There is no quantitative break-down of the data.)
The dating of a low onset in /i:/ and /u:/ in EngE is difficult and there is
little clear evidence in MacMahon (1998) or other studies. Both appear to be
late developments, though it appears that a slight onset in /u:/ preceded
that in /i:/. NZE-Origin maintains that diphthongized /u:/ was present
around the 1880s, /i:/ was raised but not diphthongized. Closing
diphthongs had begun to develop a shift of their onset at various periods of
time during the 19th century, starting with /aU/ and /aI/. Both are found in
the data. Alas, there is no break-down of data for the periods
distinguished. One must assume that the there was an increase over time.
The /eI/ vowel was barely shifted and, if so, not much. In fact, it could still
be found as a monophthongs in some areas. Apart from McBurney (1887)
who mentioned a few shifts, public comments came only after the
beginning of the 20th century and typically as complaints. And the ONZE
data show scant evidence of today's quality. These findings are important to
chapter 7 and suggest the possibility of effects of later migrations, as I
argued in Leitner (2004b; section 3.6). The authors never raise such a

Let me add a few notes on other findings. HAPPY tensing is a late and
restricted phenomenon in EngE but was found sporadically in both
Australia and NZ from the late 19th century. Could it have formed part of
the 1840 input, one wonders? Rhoticity is fascinating since it is still found in
parts of the Southern Island and some other areas as a dialect feature; it is,
however, recessive. NZE-Origin highlights the speed of it disappearing as
well as the parameters that favoured its retention, i.e. type of settlement
and birthplace of parents.

The findings create, as I have said earlier, a complex picture and permit a
range of explanatory factors: Period of birth, gender, ethnic background
(esp. Scottish, Irish, English and Australian), settlement type (especially
mixed, Scottish and English), and some linguistic contextual factors, which I
have not mentioned, often play a statistically relevant role (cf. Table 7.1, p
217). Ignoring many details, I turn to the claim that, for all but one
variable, "women are leading men in terms of moving forwards modern
forms" (p 211). Women were even in the lead of the diphthong shift that
was later stigmatized. Was it not stigmatized at the formative period? Have
women reduced the level of shifting later? There are lots of leads for further

As mentioned above, the complex findings lead into a critical discussion of
the origin and development of NZE in chapter 7 that links up with the survey
in chapter 4. The well-known Cockney hypothesis is rejected and is shown
to have been no more than a convenient label of abuse (p 222f), as in
Australia. But other hypotheses, such as a formative role of AusE, of ScotE
and of south-east EngE are discussed, as is the lack of impact of IrE. As
none of them are able to unify the diversity of findings, they are seen as
components of a range of explanatory approaches like 'drift' and, to a
lesser extent, 'swamping', or of 'theories' such as 'determinism' - an
outgrowth of the dialect-formation framework (cf. Trudgill 1986). Like it, it
presumes a three-stage development that corresponds to generational
shift. 'Rudimentary levelling' of the over-abundance of choices in a
transplanted dialect situation occurs during the initial period and amongst
first generation adults. That cannot be shown by the ONZE data, which -
using the second generation, native-born - already shows stage two, an
interdialect situation with what is called 'extreme variability'. Children at
that stage have a vast amount of choice - based on the input found
amongst adults. The third stage levels out and focuses the choices and
reduces variability further and provides a focused, weakly normative variety
that the subsequent generations can adapt to. The unmarking of marked
variants, the reallocation of some variants to signal other values, etc., are
common at that stage. Most of the input from ScotE or IrE will have
disappeared at stage two and has only survived in the special situation of
close-knit settlements on the Southern island.

'Determinism' is a much stronger version of these three stages and argues
that a mechanistic version of variability reduction that rests on demographic
strength and similar non-social factors is able to explain satisfactorily the
nature of colonial varieties of English (pp 239-241). Trudgill's (2004) book-
length argues that it can explain the development of other language
varieties in similar contexts. While NZE-Origin does summarize that theory
it gives greater and independent emphasis to factors like drift and, above
all, to social ones and is, in other words, not as biased. (One wonders a bit
about Trudgill's role as co-author.) The role of children, the founder
effect, 'swamping' (its opposite), standardization, education and socio-
psychological attitudes are indeed social factors or, at least, factors to do
with behavioural patterns such as settlement types. Let me add some detail
to this broad summary.

There is a variant to determinism, if the explanatory weight is shifted from
mere demographic factors (in which case it relies on greatest number of
speakers in some scenario) to a linguistic one. It would then take note of
frequencies in terms of frequency of occurrences or tokens - which is done
by the authors. They maintain that "the data here provide preliminary
support for determinism, provided that the notion of 'majority' is
considered token-wise, rather than (...) speaker-wise" (p 241). Drift, a well-
known concept, is appealed to when the determinism or dialect formation
paradigm fail. It is used for types of change that continue patterns not
found in the variety of origin at the formative period of time. But they do
occur both in the original and transplanted varieties. Cases in point are
diphthong shift, the fronting of the vowel in 'hat', and 'happy' tensing. (It
should be added that such cases often permit competing explanations, a
fact that is discussed at length in NZE-Origin. Drift also amounts to a
contradiction of the determinism approach since drift supports minority
linguistic patterns that should be levelled out by determinism. Is there an
inescapable linguistic force at work that could only be resisted by strong
socio-psychological factors (which Trudgill (2004) denies)? There are two
other opposing pairs, i.e. the role of children, the founder effect and

The role of children in new dialect formation (or of creoles) is well-known
and has been discussed in relation to AusE by Mitchell (1995; 2001),
Bernard (1969) and others. Their role is confirmed in NZE-Origin. Children
must have contributed to what is called the founder effect that resists in a
situation of massive demographic change. Forms of both NZE and AusE, the
authors claim, have survived despite the fact that the number of new
arrivals exceeded that of the native born many times (p 245). What is worth
noting, though, is that their claim that "parental origin is often an important
predictor of aspects of individual's speech" (p 246) logically contradicts an
over-emphasis of an independent role of children. Swamping, too, works
against the founder principle. It says that large numbers of new migrants
may push out or 'swamp' features of those born locally. However, the
authors argue that potential cases of swamping, such as the regression of
rhoticity, can be explained equally well by levelling at stage 2 of dialect
formation. True, they believe, there were mass immigrations by the mid-
1870s but about half the population was already native-born and
compulsory education had started. Both may have promoted change in the
direction observed. (But the model taught was standard English and RP at
the time, not a levelled range of popular dialects, after all. Exo-normativism
was the hallmark of the period!) Great weight is given to standardization,
education, social factors, including mobility, and socio-psychological
attitudes. The role of status is mentioned in a footnote on p 247. The
authors conclude that "some social factors need to be taken into account" (p
257) - in contrast to the tenor of Trudgill (2004).


Instead of summing up chapter 8, I will take it as the starting point of a
critical evaluation. Chapter 8 turns to the implications of the study on
language change in general and mainly uses Labov (1994; 2000), Hickey
(2002) and a few other recent studies. In the context of real- and apparent-
time studies, the authors turn to problems about the validity of the data and
acknowledge the fact that they may both over- and underestimate the real
usage of some features at the time investigated. Centralizing patterns of /I/,
for instance, are cases in point. "Caution is required", they conclude (p 262),
but insist they have made "considerable inroads into the understanding of
the input to New Zealand English" (p 262). Their discussion of the role of
the family - as against the peer group and the independent role of
children - is equally informative here. Parental influence is often stronger,
at least when children are as language shift studies have shown (cf. Leitner
2004c). But there is a conflict between parental and peer group influence
and the conflict between these potentially opposing forces is not resolved,
but discussed. If these factors are broadly social, the discussion of vowel
shift and of push as a against pull chains turns to phonetic factors and
theory. NZE-Origin argues that the data confirm the existence of push
chains, which have generally been rejected as they would imply teleological
arguments. The NZE data, it is claimed, suggest that as the TRAP vowel rose
and it pushed /e/ upward, etc. /I/ began to centralize as a result:

... there is no significant degree of DRESS raising without also TRAP being
raised, and there are very speakers who have a close TRAP but not close
DRESS and speakers with close DRESS who do not have centralised KIT. The
correlations point to a causal connection, a push chain. (p 267)

There are at least nine such speakers, most of them born between 1866
and 1874 and of a range of parental backgrounds, though often of Gaelic
descent (cf. App. 1 and 6). The vowel /e/ had a particularly raised variant
amongst those of Scottish background though ScotE did not have it (p 113).
Over-accommodation is a concept that springs to mind. At least those of
Scottish background born after 1875 outdid all other groups in shifting to a
raised variant (p 107). It is hard to argue with the authors who know their
data so much better but close scrutiny does raise questions of this sort.
There is another point. In their discussion of TRAP, they argue that
it "should be noted that by 'TRAP raising' we mean the incidence of relatively
close tokens of the TRAP vowel" (p 105). At least here, they are not talking
of a chain shift at all. The centralization of KIT was, as the authors say, a late
change, but some level of centralization was brought in. What is forgotten is
that speakers with raised variants, and there are a few, would have had to
lower and centralize them. Two changes, not one! Was that done or was it
analogical change? There is no answer but the case for push chains is not
entirely convincing.

As to vowel shift, Labov's rejection of functional as against mechanical
changes is well-known. But the data on the movement of short vowels - the
push chain upwards - suggests that his view and the various 'default'
mechanisms he posited cannot be accepted without modification. Equally
interesting is the discussion of the preference for, or avoidance of, mergers.
There are no complete mergers in the data but there are a few candidates
such as the vowels in 'ear', the reversal of h-dropping and the ups and
downs in the use of the /w/ ~ /hw/ distinction. H-dropping is particularly
relevant since it was not a feature of IrE - undoubtedly a non-standard
accent - and avoided for social reasons in EngE. It acquired the sub-
standard connotations in both AusE and NZE, while the neutral attitudes of
IrE did not win out. NZE-Origin logically argues that the data do reflect the
role of social factors and doubt a purely mechanistic explanation even if it
seems to be supported by language acquisition data. The role of the family
and the peer group should also warn against such a simplistic view. I pass
over other factors such as the role of gender, lexical diffusion of change
rather than phonemic change, etc., and come to some evaluative points.

Multiple causation is a concept the authors mention several times but do
not develop further. One would have liked to see the cumulative effect of,
say, regional background (of parents), education and phonetic factors. The
authors fail to consider in this context the possibility of the role of on-
going migrations, the 'second wave, that Ellis (1889) already referred to (cf.
Leitner 2004a/b). Why the authors take such an isolationist, single origin
stance remains a mystery in light of the data. Why cannot, to give an
example, diphthong shift have been co-produced on the basis of some
precedents and on-going change in England? Why could h-dropping not
have been reversed under the influence of education and the fashions
brought in by more middle-class migrants. In fact, it is highly questionable
that it was used a lot in NZE at the time and it certainly could have regressed
in AusE earlier. It must have been brought in later, as I argued in Leitner
(2004a/b). In fact determinism would have to rule out such features as they
must have been minority features, unsupported by large numbers. The
authors do consider the possible conflict between local formations and exo-
normativism (which, after all, facilitates the adoption of the linguistic
fashions of new migrants), etc.

I will turn to problems with the comparison of NZE and AusE. NZE-Origin
assumes an interaction as a result of migration and political control from
New South Wales and a common heritage in southern EngE. All that is
acknowledged by the authors. However, there are two issues that warrant
scrutiny. The first is the dating of the origin of AusE since it bears upon the
second point, i.e. the nature of the influence. I will begin with the dating.
NZE-Origin implies a late date for AusE, a point that is made more
dogmatically by Trudgill (2004). NZE-Origin claims that Alexander
(not "Alex") G. Mitchell said that AusE originated around 1861 and refers to
a paper he gave in 1993. That paper was circulated by the University of
Sydney in 1995 and has been published in the Australian Journal of
Linguistics 23 (2), 2003. NZE-Origin quotes correctly that Mitchell put
forward an early date of 1831 but then, wrongly, concludes that he settled
on 1861. I quote from Mitchell:

'There are persistent references from about the end of the Macquarie era
[...] to a distinctive manner of speaking among the Australian born. Some
scholars, notably Bernard favour the view that a distinctive Australian style
of speech emerged quite early among the young, and hold that the peer
group is the most powerful agent ....' [abbrev. quote from Mitchell 1995: 25;
p 224]

NZE-Origin goes on to argue that Mitchell settled on a later date on the
basis of demographic data:

Mitchell arrives at the 1861 date because that is when the number of native
born was approaching being half the total population (...). If Bernard's
earlier date [of the early 1830s, GL] ... is accepted, Australian English was
firmly established at the time of the first European settlement of New
Zealand. Moreover, Mitchell's later date of 1861 still allows the possibility of
an already focused variety of English in Australia affecting the newly
forming variety of New Zealand after 1860. (p 224)

Unlike Trudgill (2004: 23f), the authors do not insist on that reading. But it
is wrong to even argue that Mitchell dated the rise of AusE at 1861. Shortly
after the passage quoted by NZE-Origin, Mitchell says

'We now have the benefit of a thorough study of the first generation of
Australians - Portia Robinson's The hatch and brood of a time (1985). It is
clear from that they [the native born kids of the earliest period, GL] were
well capable of exercising a strong influence on the transmission of
language. The quality of their lives and their abilities and initiative as
revealed by Robinson adds strength to Bernard's argument.' (Mitchell 1995:

He sides with Bernard's early dating. What is worse is the fact that the
authors do not quote Mitchell's (2001) ms that he left after his death and
which was the basis of the Mitchell symposium at Macquarie University in
2002. That ms makes it clear that AusE emerged in the 1820s and 1830s
and that a distinction between what was (later) called Broad AusE and
General AusE developed between the 1860s and 1880s:

Broad Australian had emerged in 1828, that is after forty years, and General
Australian emerged about the 1870s or 1880s, that is after another forty or
fifty years. General Australian was a consequence of a coincident surge of
the two forces that have produced the Australian population immigration
and natural increase. (ms 2001: 62; cf. Leitner 2004b)

Broad and General had "coexisted in the 1850s (possibly earlier) and
continued to coexist", he had said earlier (2001: 58). Regarding Victoria, he
suggested that the emergence [of an Australian speech, GL] was not sudden
but very gradual, in an unbroken continuity going back to the First Fleet,
given a powerful impetus in the 1840s with the first achievement of a solid
platform for national increase of population (ms 2001: 37).

Though the General grew out of the Broad, the two differed in their
demographic base:

Broad Australian developed as a mostly rural and male speech; and General
Australian developed as mostly an urban speech in a demographic pattern
of a good balance of the sexes and rising rate of natural increase. (ms
2001: 72)

Why NZE-Origin and Trudgill (2004) could ignore that document is a
mystery, but it is clear that a very general AusE base emerged early. The
impact of that is far-reaching, as I argued in Leitner (2004a). A number of
significant features of AusE (as well as of NZE) did not exist at that time and
could not be imported. Paraphrasing Leitner (2004b; section 3.6.1), the
diphthongal onset of /i:/ was mentioned at the end of the 19th century.
Jones (1909: 34) refers to a diphthongal quality of /i:/ but implies that it
must have been a late 19th century phenomenon. He believes that /i:/ is
regularly diphthongized in London English and may begin with the vowel
in 'kit' or with what he describes as 'ei', i.e. a low version of the vowel in 'kit'.
There is uncertainty about short /e/. Some experts say it was a mid-high
vowel like very close or Cardinal /e/, others that it was open and close to
Cardinal /e/. MacMahon (1998: 453) suggests that there was a wide array
of variation in EngE by the middle of the 19th century and that EngE and,
above all, RP had a somewhat closer vowel quality. It follows that /æ/ was
variable up to the 1830s and that thereafter there was some lowering in
EngE accents. Lowering to an [a] quality in RP is recent. The diphthong /e(/,
which derived from /e:/, was said to be frequent after 1800 in BrE and AmE,
but not the only option and not with a low onset. Ellis, who observed that
vowel closely in London, found both monophthongal and diphthongal
realizations in regular use in London at around the late 1860s and the early
1870s (1874: 1109; fr. MacMahon 1998: 451). Writing at about the same
time, Sweet (1877) drew attention to the lowering of the starting point

'I find that boys under twelve speak a different language from mine: they
broaden the vowels, making take almost into tike, no almost into now, see
almost into say' (letter by Sweet to Sayce, April 3, 1880). (fr. MacMahon
1998: 451)

It is of course interesting to note ONZE evidence that these features were
used by some speakers born around the middle of the 19th century. But the
frequencies permit alternative explanations such as accommodation or
language change among adult speakers with regard to highly salient

NZE-Origin is a major contribution to the origin and development of NZE
and one that has significant implications on language change theory. The
origin of the project, the discovery of the oral history tapes at the NZBC, was
a chance find and what was done with them is most impressive and
admirable. The book has a sound structure, is well argued and progresses
from the local NZ perspective to that of theory, never losing sight of
potential conflicts between explanatory paradigms. The fact that a such
wide range of often opposing forces have been identified leads to the
question if there could not be a clearer socio-historical theory. It is a virtue
of the book that it shows that opposing forces reflect the fact that society is
never homogeneous, always full of conflicts, etc.


Bailey, G., N. Maynor, and P. Cukor-Avila, ed., 1991. The emergence of Black
English: Text and commentary. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing

Bernard, John, 1985. On the uniformity of spoken Australian English, Orbis
18(1), 62-73.

Görlach, Manfred, 1999. English in 19th century England. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Hickey, Raymond, 2002. How do dialects get the features they have?, in:
Raymond Hickey, ed., Motives for language change. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 257-282.

Labov, William 1994. Principles of linguistic change. Vol. 1: Internal factors.
Oxford: Blackwell.

Labov, William, 2000. Principles of linguistic change. Vol. 2: Social factors.
Oxford: Blackwell.

Leitner, Gerhard, 2004a. Beyond Alexander Mitchell's views on the history of
Australian English, Australian Journal of Linguistics 24(1), 99-126.

Leitner, Gerhard, 2004b. Australia's Many Voices. Australian English - The
National language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Leitner, Gerhard, 2004c. Australia's Many Voices. Ethnic Englishes,
Indigenous and migrant languages. Policy and education. Berlin: Mouton de

Leitner, Gerhard, Brian Taylor, Clemens Fritz, in progress. Language in
Australia and New Zealand. A bibliography 1788-2003. Berlin: Mouton de

MacMahon, Michael, 1998. Phonology, in: Suzanne Romaine, ed., The
Cambridge history of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 373-535.

Mitchell, Alexander, 1995. The story of Australian English. Dictionary
Research Centre, The University of Sydney [reprinted in Australian Journal
of Linguistics 23(2), 2003].

Mitchell, Alexander, 2001. The story of Australian English [= draft edited by
Colin Yallop from the original manuscript. Macquarie University, Sydney].

Trudgill, Peter, 1986. Dialects in contact. Oxford: Blackwell.

Trudgill, Peter, 2004. New-dialect formation. The inevitability of colonial
Englishes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


Professor of English linguistics. Research interests: English worldwide, esp.
in Australia, Asia; studies of language habitats such as Australia's; mass
media language(s), language policies in the European Union, Australia,
ASEAN. Recent publications "Australia's Many Voices. Australian English -
The National Language" (=Contributions to the Sociology of Language 90-
1) and "Australia's Many Voices. Ethnic Englishes, Indigenous and Migrant
Languages. Policy and Education" (=Contributions to the Sociology of
Language 90-2), both published by Mouton de Gruyter.

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