14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Phonetic Variation in Two Tyneside Vowels: Levelling In Lockstep

Dominic Watt

University of Leeds, UK

Examination of phonetic variation in the vowels of 32 Tyneside (Newcastle) English speakers reveals that localised vowel features appear to be superseded by supra-local forms in the speech of younger informants. Classification of 2,709 tokens of /e/ and /o/ shows that ingliding diphthong variants ([ɪə] and [ʊə]) are less frequent among 16-25 year-olds than among speakers aged 45-65. Furthermore, a widespread preference for the general northern monophthongs [e:] and [o:] and the adoption of southern-type closing diphthongs [eɪ] and [oʊ] by female speakers can be observed. In both vowels the decline of localised variants and the rise of incoming forms exhibits a parallelism which is difficult to account for except by reference to structural principles operating within the vowel system phonology. This parallelism can be seen as a good example of the complementarity of ‘internal’ (phonological) and ‘external’ (social) forces in the progress of a sound change.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Watt, Dominic (1999): "Phonetic variation in two Tyneside vowels: levelling in lockstep", In ICPhS-14, 1621-1624.