fronted /oU/

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Nov 4 04:04:40 UTC 2000

tim frazer reports fronted /oU/ turning up in the south midlands only
in post-ww2 generations.  this is my experience, though i would have
said even later than that.  when melanie lusk and i taught a
dialectology course at ohio state in 1980, one of our students did a
pilot study on a few vowel variables in ohio, O among them.  she found
a sharp distinction between her younger northern ohio (cleveland,
toledo, akron/canton) urban speakers (who had fronted variants)
and everybody else (who didn't).  twenty years ago, we weren't hearing
the fronted variants in the ohio part of the south midlands, even
from people born around 1960.

fronted variants for the young urban northern midlands speakers were
*very* high-frequency, especially in accented words.

(my own variety includes some fronted variants in accented words, at
least for a few lexical items, in particular NOSE and ROSE.  this
is presumably a spread west and into the suburban/rural areas of
eastern pennsylvania from philadelphia - in the 1940s and '50s.)

i'm away from my library right now, but i believe that the berkeley
survey (a decade or so back) of younger california speakers showed
very high frequencies of fronted variants (categorical for some
speakers) in its subjects, especially female ones.

i'm sort of dubious about an RP origin for the u.s. fronting(s).  it
could just be that the fronting is a phonetically natural fortition,
or strengthening (which would predict its predilection for appearing
in already strong, in particular accented, positions).  it's something
that could have appeared independently in several locations - in
southern england, in the middle atlantic region of the u.s., in the
southeast u.s., and in california.

arnold (zwicky at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list