/ow/ fronting

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Sun Nov 5 05:31:45 UTC 2000

When I lived in Washington, D.C. in 1972-80, one of the most striking
things I noted (and even heard commented on) was the fronting of the first
element of the /ow/ in Baltimore-area speech. When people came on TV news
programs for interviews, you could easily spot those from the Baltimore
area by this feature. The onset in the diphthong had become a very schwa-
like sound, but the glide seemed fairly short and the effect was not at
all RP-like. It had, to use a very non-scientific impressionistic
reaction, a rather "soft" quality to it.
        I've heard something similar in Oklahoma as a rural pronunciation,
but the impressionistic effect is quite different.
        Arnold Zwicky commented on the naturalness of the change. While I
agree, and point to the parallel Scottish shift of /uw/ --> /iw/ (also
common after alveolars elsewhere), one could presumably argue that any
change to an adjacent position is natural, as happened in the Great Vowel
Shift (ignoring whether it was one or a disconnected set of shifts),
except here /ow/ raised to /uw/, rather than fronting. [/uw/, of course,
front-lowered to /@w/ and thence to /aw/ and further to /aew/ in a chain-


More information about the Ads-l mailing list