Date: Tue, 5 Dec 1995 10:33:49 -0600
From: "Timothy C. Frazer" mftcf[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UXA.ECN.BGU.EDU
Subject: Re: Great Northern Vowel Shi**
On Tue, 5 Dec 1995, TERRY IRONS wrote:
Now we have returned to a significant topic for consideration, pinheads
and bubbleheads to be forgiven. What is it with all of this vowel
shift shit? I think this list needs to engage itself in a serious
discussion of Labov's hypothesis, rather than bowing down to that
name as some god or something. He was simply somebody's student who
lucked into a good situation, and so forth.
I was sitting in the airport in Lexington, waiting for a plane and I
eavesdropped on the perfect illustration of Mister Bill's famed
NVS (read Northern Vowel Shift), when i heard this yankee guy say to some
other guy, I lost my wallet in the bar last night. The concept of
shift notwithstanding, the sentence is perfectly diagnostic for the
crucial low vowels under consideration. Guess what went where. Perhaps
I'll save it for some revelatory paper at some important conference.
All of this rot and nonsense about vowel shifting buys into some major
and yet unstated assumptions about the phonoloogy/phonetics of spoken
Americn English. To say that a shift has occurred assumed that all
speakers at some point participated in some basic system. I would
suggest that some pronunciation patterns reflect not a change from this
system but a persistence of some variety historically that the generative
agenda, into which Mr. Bill buys wholsale, is not willing to acknowledge.
I'm not quite sure where you're going, Terry. Are you trying to say that
these vowel shifts do not exhibit the neogrammarian inevitability that L
and hsi students seems to ascribe to them? I would probably agree. But
I don't quite understand the intensity of your rhetoric.