Standard US English Dialect?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Apr 15 18:01:39 UTC 2008

On Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 12:52 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> At 12:14 PM -0400 4/15/08, Paul Johnston wrote:
> >For /u/-the moon, spoon, boot, hoop, do, too group.  Possibly brewed,
> >dude, new etc if there's no contrast between /u/ and /Iu~ju/.
> >For /o/-the coat, road, cone, hope, poke, go, no, grow group.
> >
> >I'm from much farther north and natively lack fronting of both of
> >these vowels before underlying (and often vocalized) /l/--in pool,
> >school, stool; coal, stole, pole, but have some fronting otherwise.
> >I don't know if MD has back vowels there or not.  If it does,
> >behavior before /l/ would be a good test of whether you have Midland
> >fronting or Valley Girl fronting, which is sew kewl, and fronts /u/
> >before /l/.
> That I'd have noticed.  I think there's socially conditioned aspects
> to this as well--I can imagine some of my nieces' classmates having
> Valley Girl "kewl" but not them.  (This gets into some of Penny
> Eckert's stuff.)  I'm not sure about the /o/ of "coat" or the /u/ of
> "moon", though.  I'll listen for it.

HBO's "The Wire" featured some great /o/- and /u/-fronting from the
subsidiary (white) characters, as the show often cast local
Baltimoreans in these roles.

In Philly a good shibboleth for /o/-fronting is "hoagie" pronounced
something like [hEUgi].

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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