/ow/ fronting

Donald M. Lance LanceDM at MISSOURI.EDU
Sun Nov 5 23:42:36 UTC 2000

The Host(ess) of this week's highly over-rated Saturday Night Live used the vowel in

Rudolph C Troike wrote:

> 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-
> seqence.]
>         Rudy

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