Streets (was "Stress patterns . . .", etc

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Sun Aug 27 08:47:40 UTC 2000

"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:

>  Do/did Chicagoans pronounce
> 'Devon' to rhyme with 'Don' or with 'Dawn'? I think this was variable
>  in my experience.

Thanks, Doug, for retroactively justifying some fieldwork I did today.

De Kalb, Illinois, is in the middle of its annual Corn Fest, one feature
of which was Saturday morning's 10K run.  My running days are long since
past, but I still participate as a volunteer: I wear a flourescent vest,
wave a baton, and stop traffic from interfering with the runners.

This year, the 19th annual Corn Fest Run, the event was sanctioned for
the first time as a qualifying round for members of the Chicago Area
Running Association. That brought 150 runners more than our usual
average of arond 400, and it gave me a perfect opportunity to find a
dozen Chicagoans about their pronunciation of "Devon Avenue". (Before or
after the 10K run, not while they were on the course.)

I did two things to keep the data relatively clean.  First, I asked them
whether they were native Chicagoans, and where they lived in Chicago.
(It was no surprise to me that every Chicagoan I interviewed was from
the North Side.  If it matters, they were either from the Lincoln Park
area or from Wrigleyville. Devon Avenue is pretty close to Chicago's
northern city limits.) Second, to avoid contaminating their responses
with my pronunciation, my eliciting question was framed as "what street
is at 6400 north?"

All twelve of my informants stressed the second syllable of "Devon". Ten
people aged 35 or younger (in my estimation) pronounced the syllable as
a rhyme for "don", "upon", "swan", "John", etc.  Two whose ages I would
estimate as over 60 both rhymed the last syllable with "dawn", "gone",
"brawn", etc.

After getting a response, I explained to each informant why I had
asked.  Eight of the younger Chicagoans expressed surprise, one way or
another,  to hear that anyone would have a turned c vowel in the second
syllable.  (One of them actually spelled out his reaction:  "That sounds
like saying the name Vaughn, "Vee Ay Yoo Jee Aitch Enn".)  Both my older
informants commented that they hear the don-upon-swan-John version lots
more nowadays than they did in their youth.

Yesterday, on the sole authority of my own feel for the nature of
Chicagoese, I suggested that there has been a recent shift from some
back vowel to a low central vowel in this environment.  I think my
Saturday interviews strongly confirm the impression I already had.

-- mike salovesh       <salovesh at>         PEACE !!!

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