are we making since yet?

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Apr 20 01:36:51 UTC 2005

on Apr 18, 2005, at 7:40 PM, alison murie wrote:

>  I hear "since" pronounced /sEnce/ more than I hear "sense" pronounced
> /sInse/.

i forget where you live, sagehen, but there's a general lowering of /I/
(and /E/), not limited to prenasal position, at work in several parts
of the country, including (parts of) california.

meanwhile, ron butters wrote:
The pin/pen "neutralization" is pretty widespread. In my experience, it
not a merger in the sense that one or the other phones is invariably
selected..; rather, it is realized variably as anything between [I] and

so long as the means of /I/ and /E/ are not significantly different,
this is a true merger; you have one phoneme with variation through the
[I]-to-[E] space, and this phoneme occurs in words that have /I/ or /E/
for other speakers.  i believe this is the case for many southern
speakers.  i also believe that there are southern speakers with two
phonemes, but with a lot of variation for each and with a *lot* of
overlap between their phonetic ranges.

meanwhile, i'm quite sure that there are speakers with neutralization
in favor of /I/, though this phoneme tends to be realized a bit lower
than the [I] i have in "pin" (but still well above [E]).  i've have
acquaintances from missouri and iowa, and students from (downstate)
illinois and (downstate) ohio, with this system.

the pin/pen thing is stereotypical of southern speech, but is also
found, according to the Telsur data, in ohio, indiana, illinois,
missouri, kansas, and nebraska (iowa is surely an accidental gap).
(it's also stereotypical of african american speech, though i'll bet
there's some interesting regional variation there.)  Telsur apparently
has some occurences in california and the pacific northwest, but these
would repay further study; i'm inclined to think that subregion,
rurality, and class all play an important role.

though everybody knows that southern and northern california had
different settlement patterns and constitute different culture zones,
few seem to appreciate the difference between coastal and inland
california, or between urban and rural areas.  Telsur seems to have no
pin/pen  merging in los angeles, but merging in the areas inland from
l.a. has been reported for decades, and lauren hall-lew tells me that
her rural informants in flagstaff, arizona, uniformly have
neutralization in favor of /I/.  meanwhile, the european american
college students from california i talk to at stanford, berkeley, santa
cruz, etc. almost never have the merger, at least in any form i can
hear, and i'm pretty sensitive to it.  but these students are almost
all from the big coastal cities, and very very few are working class or
(like hall-lew's informants) oriented towards working class values.
the california i live in doesn't have a lot of pin/pen merger.

i wouldn't be entirely surprised to find a north/south distinction in
california, as well as a coastal/inland distinction and an urban/rural
distinction and a class distinction and a race/ethnicity distinction
too.  in any case, there are always outliers, and maybe the speakers
wilson gray mentions (from l.a. and santa rosa) are two of them.

l.a. would be an interesting place to study for change over time, as
well as for these other factors.  the "okie-arkie" settlers who made it
all the way to l.a. almost surely were heavy neutralizers, but as their
children and grandchildren, raised in the city, mixed with those who
were part of the very substantial migration in from places other than
the south and southwest,  the pin/pen merger would have a fair chance
of being undone.

as usual, there's a lot of work to be done, even on this incredibly
famous variable.

arnold (zwicky at

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