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Regarding query: http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/16/16-669.html#1
I got a lot of responses to my question about [ae] lengthening in Australian English and am pleased to report that yes, it's a real phenomenon. Almost everyone agreed that at least some Australians (many said *all* Australians) have different vowel lengths in pairs like can/can and lad/bad. Some people confirmed that this is partly true for some speakers of RP as well (no difference in can/can, but in lad/bad and some other pairs).
One Australian respondent gave "cans"/"Cairns" as a minimal pair, though, making me wonder whether /ae/ has really split into two phonemes, or whether some /ae/ words have simply gone over to what Wells calls the SQUARE vowel. In other words, if you have a longer vowel in "bad" than in "lad", is "bad" still distinct from "Baird"?
(I have been told by New York City speakers that their tensed /ae/ is not distinct from their SQUARE vowel if they're being nonrhotic, so that "pass" rhymes with "scarce", but I don't think there's a real phonemic merger, because NYC speakers have a tendency to suppress nonrhoticity in careful speech, but do not (as far as I know) hypercorrect tense /ae/ to /er/ in words like "pass".)
As for literature, I was pointed to:
- Burridge, Kate. 1998. English in Australia and New Zealand. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Leitner, Gerhard. 2004. Australia's Many Voices. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
as well as an unpublished paper by Erich Round comparing Australian [ae] lengthening with Mid-Atlantic [ae] tensing
Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond and to share their insights with me, namely:
-- Tonio Green
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