Not quite the same:The social stratification and phonetic conditioning of the FOOT- STRUT vowels in Manchester

Turton, Danielle and Baranowski, Maciej (2020) Not quite the same:The social stratification and phonetic conditioning of the FOOT- STRUT vowels in Manchester. Journal of Linguistics. ISSN 0022-2267

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Abstract

The foot–strut vowel split, which has its origins in 17th century English, is notable for its absence from the speech of Northerners in England, where stood–stud remain homophones – both are pronounced with the same vowel /ʊ/. The present study analyses the speech of 122 speakers from Manchester in the North West of England. Although the vast majority of speakers exhibit no distinction between the foot and strut lexical sets in minimal-pair production and judgement tests, vowel height is correlated with socio-economic status: the higher the social class, the lower the strut vowel. Surprisingly, statistical models indicate that vowel class is a significant predictor of foot–strut in Manchester. This means that, for a speech community without the split, there remains an effect in the expected direction: strut vowels are lower than foot vowels in the vowel space. We suggest that co-articulatory effects of surrounding consonants explain this instrumental difference, as they have significant lowering/heightening effects on the acoustics but are not fully captured by our statistical model. We argue that the perplexing nature of the historical split can be partially accounted for in this data, as the frequency of co-occurring phonetic environments is notably different in foot than in strut, resulting in cumulative effects of co-articulation. We also present evidence of age grading which suggests that middle class speakers may develop a phonetic distinction as they age.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3300/3310
Subjects:
ID Code:
139084
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
19 Nov 2019 14:10
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
06 Jul 2020 01:45