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Interspeaker covariation in Philadelphia vowel changes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2019

Meredith Tamminga*
University of Pennsylvania


The paper asks whether six ongoing vowel changes in Philadelphia English show interspeaker covariation. In a sample of 66 young white women, pairwise correlations are significant only between three changes that have previously been observed to show parallel diachronic trajectories of change reversal, whereas changes that do not exhibit this diachronic pattern do not show covariation. I propose that the interspeaker covariation in this subset of the changes in progress arises from a shared social motivation for the change reversals that is not shared by the other changes.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1627972, “Cognitive characteristics of the leaders of language change.” I am indebted to many research assistants for their contributions to this project, especially graduate students Wei Lai, Lacey Wade, and Robert Wilder and lab manager Elisha Cooper. I am also grateful to Bill Labov for his detailed feedback, to Dave Embick for conversations that led me to this topic in the first place, to audiences at UC Davis, Stanford University, New York University, Northwestern University, and the Third Edinburgh Symposium in Historical Phonology for their comments on the ideas contained here, and to several very constructive anonymous reviewers. Of course, all remaining errors are my own.



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