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Evolutionary Syntax

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Academic Paper


Title: Cross-generational vowel change in American English
Author: Ewa Jacewicz
Institution: Ohio State University
Author: Robert Allen Fox
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.sphs.osu.edu/Faculty/Fox/Fox.html
Institution: Ohio State University
Author: Joseph C Salmons
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://joseph-salmons.net
Institution: University of Wisconsin Madison
Linguistic Field: Phonology; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: This study examines cross-generational changes in the vowel systems in central Ohio, southeastern Wisconsin, and western North Carolina. Speech samples from 239 speakers, males and females, were divided into three age groups: grandparents (66-91 years old), parents (35-51), and children (8-12). Acoustic analysis of vowel dynamics (i.e., formant movement) was undertaken to explore variation in the amount of spectral change for each vowel. A robust set of cross-generational changes in /ɪ, ɛ, æ, ɑ/ was found within each dialect-specific vowel system, involving both their positions and dynamics. With each successive generation, /ɪ, ɛ, æ/ become increasingly monophthongized and /ɑ/ is diphthongized in children. These changes correspond to a general anticlockwise parallel rotation of vowels (with some exceptions in /ɪ/ and /ɛ/). Given the widespread occurrence of these parallel chainlike changes, we term this development the "North American Shift," which conforms to the general principles of chain shifting formulated by Labov (1994) and others.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 23, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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