Department of Linguistics
Aspects of change in New York City English short-a
This talk focuses on change in the “short-a system” of New York City English (NYCE)— the set of phonological conditions on vowel quality in words like bag, hat and bang. A growing body of production results suggest that a complex set of tensing rules traditionally described for NYCE are being replaced by several simpler and less regionally-specific systems (Becker, 2010; Becker and Wong, 2010; Newman, 2014; Newlin-Łukowicz, 2015, 2016; Coggshall, 2017; Shapp, 2018). This talk reports on a study of this change using a recently developed large audio-aligned parsed speech corpus (CoNYCE). In particular, this talk will focus on two aspects of this process of change. First, our results do not support the hypothesis that the loss of the traditional system is a single abstract process of change in the community, as suggested by Labov et al.’s (2016) results from Philadelphia. Our findings, rather, suggest at least two separate changes in the community—one affecting short-a in pre-nasal contexts and a second affecting pre-oral obstruent contexts. Second, the set of social correlates for vowel trajectory shapes for short-a are different for those for overall placement of vowels in F1∼F2 space. These results add to recent work describing social conditioning of trajectory shape as distinct from vowel height and backness (Stuart-Smith 2015, Sóskuthy et al. 2019).