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Summary Details

Query:   Monophthongal Canadian English /e/ and /o/
Author:  Juli Cebrian
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   I recently posted a query (Sept 13, 2004, Linguist 15.2558) about the
prevalence of a more monophthongal pronunciation of the mid vowels /e/
and /o/ (as in ?bay? and ?go?) in English in general and in Canadian
English in particular. I am very grateful to Joaquin Romero, Rob Hagiwara,
Laura Sabourin, Anthea Fraser Gupta and R?my Viredaz for their replies.
Here follows a summary of their contributions. Suggested relevant
literature is listed below.

English varieties certainly vary with respect to the gliding nature of the
mid vowels /e/ and /o/. Variation exists among both British and North
American varieties. Variation goes from clear diphthongs, including
realizations of /e/ whose starting point is a lower vowel (e.g., in the
south of England, the southern US and Australia) to more monophthongal
(and often higher) vowels in northern varieties (northern English
varieties (e.g., Middlesbrough, Tyneside, among others), Scottish English,
Irish English (excluding Dublin), Wales and northern US). Monophthongs are
also common in Singapore English, Jamaican/West Indian English and West
African English varieties (among others).

In American English, more monophthongal productions of /e/ and /o/ are
reported for the northern US, especially. the region of the Great Lakes,
often preceding a voiceless consonant. This is also more evident with high
frequency words such as ?way?, ?go?, ?no?, ?so?. There are also
realizations of a monophthongal /e/ of a lower nature in southern New
England. Diphthongization is more common in the southern US and the

With respect to Canadian English, my data that showed a more monophthongal
production of /e/ for speakers of southwestern Ontario (west of Toronto)
and northern Ontario (Thunder Bay) than for speakers from Toronto. There
seems to be no published work on the pronunciation and distribution of the
different variants of /e/ and /o/ in Canadian English but experimental
work is currently being carried out. A study on Manitoba English is
currently underway and results may be presented at the upcoming conference
on Canadian English in the Global Context (Toronto, January 2005). In
addition, on-going research on infants? phonetic discrimination that uses
stimuli from Western Canada adult speakers reports a fairly monophthongal
production of /e/, especially as opposed to Eastern Ontario pronunciation.
There are also observations that some Toronto speakers may produce more
monophthongal /e/ and /o/ than speakers of other North American and
British varieties and than speakers from Ottawa (Eastern Ontario).

Historically, pure vowels were common until the 1800s when the addition of
a closing offglide to the long mid vowels started to develop (see also
Wells (1982) p210-11).

Suggested bibliography:
Bronstein, A. J. (1960).The Pronunciation of American English. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Halls Inc.
Dauer, R.M. (1993) Accurate English.A Complete Course in Pronunciation.
Prentice Hall Regents.
Edwards, H. T. (1992) Applied Phonetics: The Sounds of American English.
San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group Inc.
Kenyon, J. S. & T. A. Knott. (1953). A Pronouncing Dictionary of American
English. Merriam Webster.
Van Riper, C. G. & Smith, D. E.. (1979) An Introduction to General
American Phonetics. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press Inc.
Wells, J. C. (1983). Accents of English (1, 2, 3). CUP.

Thanks again for your help. Further comments and questions are welcome.

Juli Cebrian
U. Autonoma de Barcelona

LL Issue: 15.2898
Date Posted: 14-Oct-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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