Variation in Norm
3 The progressive American vowel system
Various sound changes which have occurred in the vast geographic area of the U.S.A. and also in Canada during the last fifty or more years have led to an altered vowel system. In the last few decades these developments seem to have gained momentum and have produced a distinct sound pattern. The accent based on it may be viewed as an emerging second standard of American pronunciation. It appears to have achieved covert social recognition because its main phonologi cal property has, at least up to the midnineties, met with neither critical rejection nor praise (cf. Labov 1994: 344). This standard no longer so much reflects the natural speech of educated people from the Great Lakes region, but is grow ing into a rival type of General American that is maximally deregionalized. The accent and its underlying vowel system can be characterized as “progressive” because it is predominantly used by younger speakers, with female speakers – as is common in microdiachronic events – showing the most advanced stages of the new system and spearheading innovative trends. Figure II represents a tentative outline of the progressive vowel system. i u ɪ ʊ e o ə ɛ ↖ɔɪ æ ↖aɪ aʊ↗ ɑ ɑ spa, palm, bar, start, pot, cot, caught, hock, hawk, don, dawn, law, dog, office, offer, water o [oʊ]: low, coat, comb; [ɔ]: for, door, north, force, horse, hoarse, border (orange, forest) ɛ arrow, harry, narrow, tarry, carry, marry Figure II: The vowels and true diphthongs of the progressive American system and illustration of some constant and altered lexical incidences...
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