Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 09:45:00 EDT From: "Dennis.Preston" <22709MGR[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSU.EDU> Subject: Southern Shuft A polite request to comment on the apparent contradiction to the general rule that tense vowels rise and lax vowels fall in the Southern Shift has not yet provoked any of us to answer in detail. The full answer is perhaps too detailed for the list, but I believe the following will resolve the apparent contradiction. The data which cause the confusion are those of the following sort: In the Southern Shift TEAM sounds like TAME and TAME sounds like TIME (and TIME sounds like TOM, but that is perhaps not important to this discussion). It is important to add, I believe, that (at least to Northerners) BIT sounds a little like BEET and BET a little like BAIT. If all this is so, then isn't it the case that the tense vowels are falling and the lax ones raising? First, let us note that a better statement of the principle would be that it is the peripheral vowels which tend to raise and the nonperipherals which tend to fall. Granted, tense vowels, in general, tend to be more peripheral than lax. Second, however, notice that the tense properties of the vowels in TEAM, TAME, and TIME (those which fall in the Southern Shift) derive from the glide or second portion of the diphthong. The onset of the vowel itself can be (and was obviously interpreted as) lax (or nonperipheral), at least more so than the corresponding vowels in BIT, BET, and, perhaps, even BAT. The Southern Shift is, therefore, based on a reinterpretation of the peripherality (tenseness) of the diphthongal vowels which are traditionally regarded as tense but, in this case, whose onsets are regarded as lax (or less peripheral) than the nearby traditionally lax ones. Since varieties of English other than Southern US (e.g., Australian) obey very similar rules, this seems to be an accurate analysis. All the complexities are not here since varieties may have competing subsystems of change, some of them based on differing interpretations of which items are tense versus lax (or, better, peripheral versus non peripheral). See Part B of Labov's New Principles of Linguistic Change (Oxford, Blackwell, 1994) for fuller details. Dennis Preston <22709mgr[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]> changing to