Date: Tue, 7 Mar 1995 10:05:41 EST From: David Bergdahl Subject: lowback merger Ohio University Electronic Communication Date: 07-Mar-1995 10:05am EST To: \emote Addressee ( _MX%"ADS-L[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UGA.CC.UGA.EDU ) From: David Bergdahl Dept: English BERGDAHL Tel No: (614) 593-2783 Subject: lowback merger Coming from LI I naturally differentiate low-to-mid back round awful from low central-to-back offal. All of my Ohio students' autos, however, are named Otto. I long believed this homophony (to my ear) was the famed merger. Some students, however, maintained they could discriminate the two and, in fact, used different phonetic symbols for them [not always the appropriate ones, but different ones]. Now, after reading Labor's "3 Dialects of English" and purchasing his Linguistic Principles of Sound Change:Internal Factors, I believe my students were right. Some of my Ohioans have merged vowels, but others with Northern Cities Sound Shift have a low central-to-front unr vowel for offal and a short low back vowel for awful (sometimes flat, sometimes round, but always clipped). According to Labov, this is part of the chain shift initiated by the tensing and raising of ae, which doesn't take place in the merger dialect. Now the interesting part: in more formal styles and when self-monitoring the preferred vowel is unround. I always wondered if this shift was a movement away from the rounded AW vowel. In Labov's scheme the tensing and raising of ae leaves a gap which the unround offal vowel attempts to fill (giving the fronted vowel of dollar and color), followed by the lowering and centralizing of the vowel of awful. My interest lies in whether the subjective response of dialect speakers shouldn't be paramount in deciding whether a vowel is merged or not. (I remember the joke about the northern teacher responding to a pupils request for the spelling of rat; when told r-a-t the pupil responds, not mouse-y rat. . .but "right now." Surely we wouldn't say the teacher's confusion in this anecdote is paramount in deciding whether the vowels are merged or not. In my own mostly r-less dialect dock=dark and god=guarded, but only the second pair "feels" merged to me: in the first there's a backing of the r-less dark.) Comments welcome. David Bergdahl Ohio University/Athens "between the Midwest and Appalachia" cc: James Coady ( COADY ) Received: 07-Mar-1995 10:05am