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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2018 1:03 pm 
Sanci
Sanci

Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2006 8:29 pm
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Which occurred first in the NCVS? The raising of the TRAP vowel or the fronting of the LOT vowel? From what I've read there are disagreements among linguists as to which came first. Some say the NCVS is a pull shift caused by TRAP raising while others say it's a push shift caused by LOT fronting.


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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2018 1:28 pm 
Sumerul
Sumerul

Joined: Mon Jun 20, 2005 12:47 pm
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Location: Milwaukee, US
The Northern Cities Shift in Real Time: Evidence from Chicago claims that /ɑ/ moved before /æ/, based on the old recordings of speakers from Chicago who were born in the early 20th century.

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PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2018 4:14 pm 
Sanno
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Why not both?

I think this reflects two different "problems" in English.

One problem is that /{/ is a very high-frequency vowel in English, but it's also a comparatively unusual vowel quality. The language goes "huh? why is this weird sound so damn common!?" and finds ways to either lower to /a/ or raise to /E/ (given that English doesn't have either of these). This is often accomplished with splits to reduce the frequency of this vowel: this has happened independently at least three times in the last couple of centuries (southern britain, australia, and most of the US to some degree or other).

A second problem is that English has too many low back vowels: cot and caught are too close together. Of course, that's not an absolute rule (SSBE has three vowels there!*), but it's clearly a point of tension. Different US dialects are to a significant extent defined by how they deal with that problem. The south traditionally had breaking of /O/; the West had merger of /O/ and /A/. Other areas have fronting of /A/. But that means it's close to /{/. So /{/ gets lifted out of the way - but this isn't a totally new change, just a generalisation of the conditional raising seen in most forms of American. Meanwhile in the West, the merger of /A/ with /O/ creates more space for /{/ to pull back into.


*why is SSBE ok with this? Partly, probably, because it has fewer mergers in general - the fewer vowels you have the more it feels unnatural to have two of them close together. But also because SSBE has added a new distinction, in sulcalisation: non-sulcal non-rounded /A/ vs sulcal non-rounded /Q/ vs sulcal somewhat-rounded /O/, to reinforce the location differences.

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