The duration of /ae/ and /ai/

Joseph Salmons jsalmons at WISC.EDU
Mon Jan 21 17:00:16 UTC 2008

The article in question is this:

Jacewicz, Ewa, Joseph Salmons & Robert Allen Fox. 2007. Vowel duration
across three American dialects. American Speech 82.367-385.

The main finding is that, in our sample, vowels produced by speakers
from westernmost North Carolina are significantly longer than those of
speakers from southern/eastern Wisconsin (Madison and points east and
somewhat northeast -- basically, the western edge of the Northern
Cities area), while central Ohio (the Columbus area) takes an
intermediate position.

We did indeed find that /ae/, the vowel in 'bat' and 'bad', was longer
than /aI/, the vowel in 'bite' and 'bide', in looking across the whole
set of dialects. I don't have the numbers in front of me right now,
but I think /ae/ and /aI/ were pretty comparable in duration for NC
speakers, but /ae/ was longer for Ohio and Wisconsin speakers.

Our NC speakers had pretty monophthongal /aI/, as you'd expect, but it
is surely not a monophthong in Wisconsin.  It's important to note
that /ae/ is really diphthongal, especially in Wisconsin. Tom Purnell
is doing really nice work finding the same kind of pattern across
Wisconsin and into Minnesota. If you plot Upper Midwestern /ae/ in the
F1/F2 space over multiple points of its duration, in fact, you'll see
a striking U shape for many speakers. I guess the traditional reliance
on single measurements at the mid-point of the vowel or even two
measurements has tended to obscure just how much movement there is in
this vowel.


On Jan 20, 2008, at 10:13 PM, James Harbeck wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
> Subject:      Re: which would take longer to say /ae/ or /ai/
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I would think that in those dialects where the I
> in /aI/ is elided, the tendency would be to
> lengthen it in order to preserve distinctiveness
> (those who are more used to Southern US speech
> can comment on whether this seems actually to be
> the case). I don't have the current issue of AD
> (this reminds me: I need to go do some business
> at the ADS website) -- is there an indication of
> the sample base? It would be useful to break it
> out by rendering of the diphthong, or at least
> geographically.
> Is any suggestion made in the article to account
> for the relative times -- tongue movement time,
> for instance, or typical context, or need for
> distinction (in some Northern dialects now the
> area around [æ] is getting crowded, I think)?
> James Harbeck.
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