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Producing and perceiving the Canadian Vowel Shift: Evidence from a Montreal community

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2017

Thomas Kettig
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Bodo Winter
University of Birmingham


This paper investigates interspeaker variation in the mid and low short vowels of Jewish Montreal English, analyzing the Canadian Shift in both production and perception. In production, we find that young women are leading in the retraction of /æ/ and the lowering and retraction of /ε/. We furthermore find that across speakers, the retraction of /æ/ is correlated with the lowering and retraction of /ε/, providing quantitative evidence that the movements of these two vowels are linked. The trajectory implied by our production data differs from what was reported in Montreal approximately one generation earlier. In contrast to reliable age differences in production, a vowel categorization task shows widespread intergenerational agreement in perception, highlighting a mismatch: in this speech community, there is evidently more systematic variation in production than in perception. We suggest that this is because all individuals are exposed to both innovative and conservative variants and must perceptually accommodate accordingly.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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