A new study by University of Pennsylvania linguists shows that the Philadelphia accent has changed in the last century. The traditional Southern inflections associated with Philadelphia native-born speakers are increasingly being displaced by Northern influences.
"A Hundred Years of Sound Change," published in the March issue of the journal Language, documents Philadelphia's changing accent through an analysis of speech patterns of city residents spanning more than a century.
The study is co-authored by William Labov, professor of linguistics and director of Penn's Linguistics Laboratory; Josef Fruehwald, a doctoral candidate in linguistics at Penn; and Ingrid Rosenfelder, a postdoctoral student at Penn at the time of the National Science Foundation supported study.
Labov and his team developed new computational methods to research the way in which vowels have been pronounced by Philadelphians since 1973.
"This is a breathtaking view of language change over a long period of time," Labov said. Approximately 1,000 people were involved in the study with 380 analyzed so far.
Nearly a million measurements show that two-thirds of the Philadelphia vowels are in the process of change. In one instance, the vowel used in the word "ate" has steadily moved closer to the vowel of "eat," as shown by the speaker's date of birth from 1888 to 1992. The change in progress affects equally people of all educational levels, both men and women.
"A 'snake' in the grass becomes a 'sneak' in the grass as the long vowel 'a' is pronounced with the speaker's jaw in a higher position," Labov said.
The vowel of "out" and "down" has reversed direction, after moving toward a distinctively different Philadelphia sound for the first half of the century. For those born in the 1950s and later, this vowel moved progressively back towards the position it held in 1900.
The paper looks for an explanation of these differences in the relation of Philadelphia to its geographic neighbors. In the earlier period, many Philadelphia features resembled those found in Southern dialects, and these are the changes that have reversed direction.
Those that have not are movements towards patterns heard in the Northern dialects of western New England, New York state and the Great Lakes Region. The "Northernization" of the Philadelphia region is related to other findings on the direction of linguistic change in North America.
Local dialects are receding among younger speakers in the Southern states, while new sound changes are advancing steadily among younger speakers in the North.
University of Pennsylvania: http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
There's a new contender in the century-old quest for perfect, guiltless sweetness: allulose. It's sugar — but in a form that our bodies don't convert into calories. Perfect? Not quite.
Researchers say findings may have important public health implications as vitamin supplements are relatively safe and cost-effective
Sarcoptic mange can leave southern hairy-nosed and bare-nosed wombats blind and deaf before eventually killing them
Annual vaccinations could be a thing of the past as scientists have successfully tested vaccines on animals infected with different strains of influenza
Remember winter, when everything was cold and grey? Right now, when all around is lush and green, the contrast couldn’t be greater. But is everything really as it seems? New research shows that we see things differently in winter compared with summer.
We now know how to turn fat cells into ones that burn calories as heat rather than store them – raising the prospect of a gene therapy for obesity
A growing body of research suggests that doctors' racial biases and other prejudices continue to affect the care patients received. Medical educators say self-awareness is an important first step.
A new study renews questions about how aggressively doctors should treat a very early form of breast cancer or pre-cancer.
Addyi gains US marketing licence after third attempt, but questions remain about its effectiveness, potential side-effects and the true need for the drug
Increasingly taken by healthy people to improve focus before exams, after a comprehensive review researchers say modafinil is safe in the short-term