Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 12:07:05 -0500


Subject: Re: [fle:g]

When I first came to Wisconsin in 1970, I often assigned the Pledge of

Allegiance as a phonetics exercise in my introductory linguistics course, since

students knew it by heart and weren't as likely to be distracted by spelling.

In those early years, the students almost always transcribed "flag" with a low

front unrounded [ae] 'ash' vowel. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, however,

the transcription [fle:g] showed up several times. In a typical class of 80-90

students, it occurred about 10-15% of the time. The last time I used this

exercise (1993) almost half the students transcribed [fle:g]. As a qualifier, I

usually have a significant number of returning adult students (around 30%),

although that percentage has declined somewhat since 1990. Since these are all

beginning students, I wouldn't put too much stock in their transcriptions of

their own pronunciation, but it's an indication at least that the low front

unrounded vowel is probably rising among younger speakers.