Phonological Change

Revision cards about phonological change processes and studies.

Great Vowel Shift (1400-1600AD)

  • The long vowels in the Midlands and South of England shifted in pronunciation
  • Nobody knows why it happened!
  • The sounds changed or shortened.
  • Examples:
      • Modern English --- Middle English
      • wife --- weef
      • mouse --- moos
      • been --- bayn
      • her --- heer
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Labov - Martha's Vineyard - 1966

  • Labov studied changing speech patterns in a small fishing community called MArtha's Vineyard on a north-eastern American island.
  • Had a small indigenous population, but a large tourist trade.
  • The indigenous vowel pronunciation began to change. It had always been different to mainlad USA but was now becoming markedly different.
  • Labov said the locals were trying to separate themselves linguistically from the tourists by using a local dialect and accent to show a kind of covert prestige.
  • Reasons? To maintain their culture and tradition, trying to stake their claim to the island against the influx of tourists.
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Peter Trudgill

  • In 1983, studied southern English speakers who were showing a continual slide from their original rural dialects towards a form of Received Pronunciation or their school language.
  • Called this style shifting.
  • Reasons? shift to city jobs - more exposed to RP, RP reatins status, so more likely to use RP.
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Jean Aitchison

  • 1991 - identified rceent changes in phonology.
  • Mistake had become 'merstake'
  • Astronomy had become 'erstronomy'
  • The 't' in football had been replaced with a glottal stop so it is pronounced 'foo'ball'
  • In the 1990s, tenagers speech patterns mad eevrythig sound like a question, especially for girls, as they used a rising intonation.
  • Though to have been influenced by Australian tv programmes like Home and Away.
  • It has been called - Australian question intonation, rising intonation, uptalk, upspeak.
  • Not as common anymore - Australian tv shows no longer as popular, 'Friends' has eneded.
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Kerswill and Williams

  • 1999 - Milton Keyne study - noticed that younger residents were losing their original dialet and using a single dialect called Estuary English
  • This process is called dialect levelling.
  • Different dialects had been brought to the town, but EE prevailed.
  • All the dialects levelled into EE - the one considered to be more prestigious and socially preferred.
  • Esturay English is a mix of RP and cockney
  • More prevalent in older schoolchildren - teachers more relaxed, more susceptible to peer pressure - more likely to create a prestige dialect.
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Reasons for Phonological Change

  • Not always clear
  • Social factors are often important
  • Imitation of those we admire or respect can change phonology
  • Movement around the country due to the economoy can change phonology.
  • Pronunciation can change for ease or articulation - so they are just physically easier to say.
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Jean Aitchison's Four Stages

  • Based on Labov.
  • 1. The speech of one social group changes from the local pronunciation.
  • 2. A second social group begins copying the first group, possibly unconsciously.
  • 3. The new pronunciation becomes established among the second group as part of their usual accent.
  • A third group begins to copy the second group and the process repeats.
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  • When sounds disappear from words.
  • 'tomb', 'lamb', 'thumb' - the 'b' used to be pronounced.
  • 'hadst', 'gavest' - now just 'had' and 'gave'. They were difficult to pronounce before so the pronunciation changed and the spelling reflects this change.
  • 15th century - the 'k' in 'knee' and 'knight' was pronounced.
  • Dropping the 'aitches' e.g. from 'hospital' - now pronounced 'ospital'
  • Glottal stop - dropping the 't' sound e.g. 'butter' - 'bu'er'
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