Date: Wed, 22 Mar 1995 09:26:00 EST

From: "Dennis.Preston" 22709MGR[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MSU.EDU

Subject: 'see' or 'say'

Bill Smith's observations that in the Southern Shift beat sounds like bait and

bait sounds like bite is right on (and he might have observed that bit sounds

a little like beat and bet a little like bait). The problem is in associating

what are traditionally known as tense and lax vowels with the peripheral and

nonperipheral track that vowels follow in chain shifting. In the Southern

Shift, in what Labov identifies as Pattern IV, /iy/ and /ey/ are lowering

along the nonperipheral track and /I/ and /E/ are raising along the peripheral


One must determine the phonetic attributes of sounds which a particular change

may make use of. I assume it is the nonperipheral (lax) onset of the original

diphthings of such items as beat and bait which is latched onto by the

lowering, nonperipheral force (as opposed to the tenser, glide-like aspect of

their second parts. Chapters 5 and 6 of Labov's new Prinmciples of Linguistic

Change will give the details (Blackwell, 1994).

Dennis Preston

22709mgr[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]msu,edu