Date: Thu, 17 Feb 1994 12:18:37 -0500


Subject: Re: [u]/[ju]

Thanks for asking. My database has pretty stuff on [u]/[ju] in the

Golden Horseshoe, the 250km strip around the western tip of Lake

Ontario that includes Oshawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Niagara Falls and

points between, where about one-sixth of Canada's population live.

The data generally show that [ju] is declining. That's no surprise,

because it is in England, the US (except the South?), and probably

evertywhere else where English is spoken.

But it's not a simple decline. There are 3 different categories of

/ju/ words:

1. avenue (and other /ju/-final words like retinue, revenue) show only

a very mild (possibly insignificant) decrease across the age groups:

88% of over 80s have [ju], 91% of 30-39 yr-olds do too, and the line

is flat in between them. Then a slight dip: 84% of 20-29s, and 77% of

14-19s. This is very different from the young Americans immediately

across the border in Niagara (Buffalo, Tonawanda, etc.): there only

37% and 31% of 14-19s and 20-29s have [ju].

2. coupon appears to be idiosyncratic. I get a bimodal distribution:

The youngest groups, from 14 to 49 have a flat line at around 30%

[ju], and the older folks, from 50-79 have a flat line around 54%.

(The over 80s dip down to 35%, and I don't know why.) Incidentally,

I've never seen a distribution like this for any other item.

3. student, news (and other /ju/-medial words) show a regular decline

in [ju] across the ages, as expected. The lines for the two words are

very similar, with student having marginally more [ju]-users than

news, but the general incline goes from about 10% in 14-19s steadily

to 41% for over 80s for news, and just a bit wobbly for student. The

youngest groups are beautifully intertwined: 20-29s at 15%, 30-39s at

20%, 40-49s at 25-27%.

So when we talk about [ju] being replaced by [u], it's clearly only

happening systematically to medial /ju/ in Canada.

Incidetnally, Sandra Clarke has a nice article on this called "The

Americanization of Canadian pronunciation: a survey of palatal glide

usage," in her book Focus on Canada, in the Benjamins series Varieties

of English Around the World, 85-108. Her survey doesn';t include my GH

data (because she wrote it before I had it). There are some good

articles in the book besides Sandra's. She's a good editor too.

By the way, if anyone wants to see the graphic representation of my

/ju/ data, it's available.

--Jack Chambers