California research

AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Mon Nov 25 21:10:56 UTC 2002

Allyn Partin Hernandez is doing significant research on California
pronunciation for her thesis at California State University, Northridge. She
sent this report and gave permission for me to post it. She welcomes comments
(and will see them, since she's on the list). - Allan Metcalf


The puzzle pieces are going together beautifully.  I must say that the age
groups' speech behavior produced no surprises and that even without machine
analysis, the new sounds are as obvious as can be.  (By new sounds, I refer
to the shifts of /ae/ and /E/.)

I used a one-page reading passage designed to elicit multiple tokens of
everything that I wanted to examine.
Among the categories were:
/ae/ and /ae/ before nasals
/E/ and /E/ before nasals and /g/
/hw/ words aplenty
"narrow" and "Larry" words
"Orange" and "foreign" words
"hurry" words
"Don" and "dawn" words
-ing endings
aunt, envelope, route, roof
/str/ in words like "strong" & "Nordstrom"
words containing /u:/, /U/ and /oU/
vowels before /l/ in words like "really" "available', etc.
plenty of /aU/ opportunities
"palm" and "calm" words

*I used DARE's age groupings, and recorded people from 7-77, male and female
*I recorded 60 people from 5 counties
*Each person was asked to chat on tape after the reading passage was finished
so that I could be sure that there wasn't a huge difference between the two
situations' results
*My informants were from the sociolinguistically influential
lower-middle-class/working class brackets and they had occupations such as
plumber, 911 operator, roofer, pet shop worker, public schoolteacher, mail
clerk, fabric shop worker, and so on.

Preliminarily, here's what I have:

not one person below age 50 used /hw/ and many above didn't, either
all age groups used /EI/ for "egg" and "leg"
all age groups used a fronted and flattened /aU/ in words like "county" &
all groups had merged aw/ah, but the merged vowel differed in quality, with
younger speakers sometimes favoring a rounded compromise vowel

Breaking things down:
aw/ah merged
Forward /u/, /U/ and /oU/
/ae/ backed and lowered very often except before nasals
/E/ backed and lowered very often except in "leg" words and in "get" words
Creaky voice on sentence-final stressed vowel!
Tapped /t/ replaced by glottal stop intervocalically across word boundaries
"not a"
/str/ becomes /Str/ in words like "strong" with male speakers leading the way

Same as above in the younger members of group
Still a startling percentage of new /ae/ and /E/ shifts
Higher incidence of "gIt" forms
Some creaky voice, but generally only in females
Rare glottal stops for /t/

/E/ before /n/ yields /I/--"when" etc.
Midlands influence heard in ingliding on words like "him"
/hw/ quite frequent but even still rarely 100% for each person
NO glottal /t/
NO creaky voice
/ae/ and /E/ in traditional places except before nasals.  /ae/ before nasal
didn't always raise
NO forward back vowels
Rural tone to speech as a whole

/rUf/ occurences
8% of 7-17
63% of 18-39
66% of 40-59
83% of 60 yrs. +
Much of the sound changes follow this kind of breakdown

All in all, the oldest and youngest age groups had vastly different vowels in
many cases.  Machine analysis will be nice to do in the future, but these
changes can be heard by anyone who listens to them on the tapes.

I have been working away at this in my spare time and regret not giving you
an update sooner.  Now this just needs to be written into thesis form.  It
would be gratifying to have a way to triple our lifespans to see which of the
shifts in the US win out.  Could this be a GVS #2???

I see in the ADS Newsletter that someone gave a talk on Portland, OR speech
that showed unstable /ae/ too!  I wish that this could be hurried so that the
So Cal findings could be considered by everyone before it's all yesterday's

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