Staunton, VA

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Tue Dec 5 16:47:28 UTC 2000

At 08:14 AM 12/5/00 -0500, you wrote:
>I'm sure there are pockets of every kind: the direction of movement for
>"short o" is toward the unround variant, though, despite the hold-outs.
>Denis Preston wrote "Be careful of the "Midwest" in your "continued
>unrounding." Many Inland North areas (MI, IL, WI, etc...) which many
>would call the Midwest, preserve the distinction (i.e., otto and auto
>are quite distinct). The loss is also very recent in South Midlands
>areas. I have it +50 but my little hillbilly relatives -30 don't."
>In the 30+ yrs I've been in Athens I've noticed a real shift.  Initially
>the vowel of {AU} and "short o before /f s th/ &c" words was very back
>and short so that a positional contrast between low central {father} &
>{cot} and low back {lost} & {caught}.  There was also a half- or
>semi-round quality which made it difficult to determine if the vowel was
>round or flat, especially since it was usually quite short (by contrast
>to my open o's which are long, often diphthongal [UO]).  Now, however,
>many of the students have more centralized values for both (or at least
>not as tightly backed variants for the "previously round" {au} & {o}
>-- db
>David Bergdahl                 einstein at     tel: (740)
>                               home page:

The "half- or semi-round" vowel heard here in SE Ohio and western PA is the
low back "intermediate" rounded or "turned script a" vowel (between script
a and backward C).  It's still very common, in fact the standard, in this
area among young and old.  When I study my students at OU, I'm careful to
ask where they're from; the great majority of students are from central and
northern Ohio, not from southern (and esp. SE) Ohio, so we have to
distinguish between Clevelanders, for ex. (distinguishing 'cot' and
'caught'), Columbus and mid-state students (with the merger to the low
unrounded 'cot'), and native Athenians (merging the two sounds to the
intermediate or semi-round back vowel).

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