fronted /oU/

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Sat Nov 4 21:04:45 UTC 2000

Yes, and as I've said earlier and elsewhere, southern/southeastern Ohio
represents both the upward extension of the Southern Shift and the westward
spread of the West Penn/Pittsburgh vowels (see Hankey 1972, in the Raven
McDavid festschrift).  Someone cited West Virginia's vowel fronting also;
our eastern end of Ohio shares a lot of features with WV.  When I mentioned
"older people" though, I was citing from my 20-year perspective in
Ohio.  The very first sound that struck my ear when I came for my interview
at OU in 1980 was the fronting of /ow/--not in OU gownies, of course, but
in many then middle-aged townies (my landlady that year was 40-ish, which
would date her from the 1940s or a bit earlier).  I would guess that it has
spread through southern Indiana and Illinois in the period Tim mentions.

I agree with Arnold that RP is not the source but would also remind him of
the great differences between northern, central, and southern Ohio (as I'm
sure he knows).  Erik Thomas found the fronting in younger people in the
Columbus area, but his sites aren't really in southeastern Ohio, where the
feature has been around longer.  Most of our undergrads at OU are in fact
from northern and central Ohio, and they regularly notice, and mock, the
local speech of Athens County and environs--this is truly hillbilly and
"southern" country to them.

At 12:45 PM 11/4/00 -0600, you wrote:
>Labov's diagram in Eckert "New Ways. . . ." (1991:23) reports fronting
>ofboth /uw/ and /ow/ as characteristic of the southern vowel shift, as does
>Tim Habick in the same volume.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>Sent: Friday, November 03, 2000 10:04 PM
>Subject: Re: fronted /oU/
> > 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

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

More information about the Ads-l mailing list