Skip to main content

Country ideology and the California Vowel Shift

  • Robert J. Podesva (a1), Annette D'Onofrio (a1), Janneke Van Hofwegen (a1) and Seung Kyung Kim (a1)

Addressing the dearth of variation research in nonurban, noncoastal regions of California, this study examines the extent to which speakers in Redding, an inland community just north of the Central Valley, participate in the California Vowel Shift (CVS). We acoustically analyze the fronting of the back vowels boot and boat, the raising of ban and backing of bat, and the merger of bot and bought, in sociolinguistic interviews with 30 white lifelong residents. Results reveal a change in apparent time for all analyzed variables, indicating the CVS's progression through the community, though not as robust as in urban, coastal areas. Additionally, we provide evidence that shifting patterns for different vowels are structured by the ideological divide between town and country. Thus, as the CVS spreads through Redding, speakers utilize particular features of the shift differently, negotiating identities relevant in California's nonurban locales.

Hide All
Alexander Toni Ann. (2004). From Oklahomans to “Okies”: Identity Formation in Rural California. PhD dissertation, Louisiana State University.
Baranowski Maciej. (2007). Phonological variation and change in the dialect of Charleston, South Carolina. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Durham: Duke University Press.
Barras Claude, Geoffrois Edouard, Wu Zhibiao, & Liberman Mark. (2001). Transcriber: Development and use of a tool for assisting speech corpora production. Speech Communication 33:522.
Baugh John. (1983). A survey of Afro-American English. Annual Review of Anthropology 12:335354.
Becker Kara, Aden Anna, Best Katelyn, & Jacobson Haley. (2015). Variation in West Coast English: The case of Oregon. Paper presented at the American Dialect Society's Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, January 8–11.
Bigham Douglas S. (2005). Movement of front vowel allophones before nasal in Southern Illinois White Vernacular English. MA thesis, University of Texas–Austin.
Boersma Paul, & Weenink David. (2012). Praat: Doing phonetics by computer. Version 5.3.07. Available at: Accessed March 4, 2012.
Brandth Berit. (1995). Rural masculinity in transition: Gender images in tractor advertisements. Journal of Rural Studies 11:123133.
Bucholtz Mary, Bermudez Nancy, Edwards Lisa, Fung Victor, & Vargas Rosalva. (2007). Hella Nor Cal or Totally So Cal?: The perceptual dialectology of California. Journal of English Linguistics 35:325352.
Campbell-Kibler Kathryn. (2011). Intersecting variables and perceived sexual orientation in men. American Speech 86:5268.
Cochrane Willard. (1993). The development of American agriculture: A historical analysis. 2nd ed.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
D'Onofrio Annette, Eckert Penelope, Podesva Robert J., Pratt Teresa, & Van Hofwegen Janneke. (Forthcoming). Low vowel variation in California's Central Valley. In Evans B., Fridland V., Kendall T., & Wassink A. B. (eds.), Speech in the West: The Pacific Coast. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Durham: Duke University Press.
Eckert Penelope. (2004). California vowels. Radio interview on All Things Considered, February 24. Available at: Accessed February 28, 2015.
Eckert Penelope. (2008a). Variation and the indexical field. Journal of Sociolinguistics 12:453476.
Eckert Penelope. (2008b). Where do ethnolects stop? International Journal of Bilingualism 12:2542.
Eckert Penelope. (2012). Three waves of variation study: The emergence of meaning in the study of variation. Annual Review of Anthropology 41:87100.
Fabricius Anne, Watt Dominic, & Johnson Daniel Ezra. (2009). A comparison of three speaker-intrinsic vowel formant frequency normalization algorithms for sociophonetics. Language Variation and Change 21:413435.
Flemming Edward. (2003). The relationship between coronal place and vowel backness. Phonology 20:335373.
Fought Carmen. (1999). A majority sound change in a minority community: /u/-fronting in Chicano English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3:523.
Fox Aaron. (2004). Real country: Music and language in working-class culture. Durham: Duke University Press.
Fridland Valerie. (2008a). Patterns of /uw/, /ʊ/ and /ow/ fronting in Reno, Nevada. American Speech 83:432454.
Fridland Valerie. (2008b). Regional differences in perceiving vowel tokens on Southernness, education, and pleasantness ratings. Language Variation and Change 20:6783.
Fridland Valerie, & Bartlett Kathy. (2006). The social and linguistic conditioning of back vowel fronting across ethnic groups in Memphis, Tennessee. English Language and Linguistics 10:122.
Fridland Valerie, Bartlett Kathryn, & Kreuz Roger. (2004). Do you hear what I hear? Experimental measurement of the perceptual salience of acoustically manipulated vowel variants by Southern speakers in Memphis, TN. Language Variation and Change 16:116.
Gal Susan. (2013). Tastes of talk: Qualia and the moral flavor of signs. Anthropological Theory 13:3148.
Geenberg Katherine. (2014). The other California: Marginalization and sociolinguistic variation in Trinity County. PhD dissertation, Stanford University.
Gregory James. (1989). American exodus: The Dust Bowl migration and Okie culture in California. New York: Oxford University Press.
Guenter Joshua, Lewis Julie, & Urban Margaret. (1999). A perceptual study of vowels before/r/. In Ohala J. (ed.), Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Berkeley: Regents of the University of California.
Hagiwara Robert. (1997). Dialect variation and formant frequency: The American English vowels revisited. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 102:655658.
Hall-Lew Lauren. (2005). One shift, two groups: When fronting alone is not enough. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 10:105116.
Hall-Lew Lauren. (2009). Ethnicity and phonetic variation in San Francisco English. PhD dissertation, Stanford University.
Hall-Lew Lauren. (2011). The completion of a sound change in California English. In Lee W. & Zee E. (eds.), ICPhS XVII: Proceedings of the 17th International Congress on Phonetic Sciences. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong. 807810.
Hall-Lew Lauren. (2013). “Flip-flop” and mergers in progress. English Language and Linguistics 17:359390.
Hall-Lew Lauren, & Stephens Nola. (2012). Country talk. Journal of English Linguistics 40:256280.
Hay Jennifer, Warren Paul, & Drager Katie. (2006). Factors influencing speech perception in the context of a merger-in-progress. Journal of Phonetics 34:458484.
Hinton Leanne, Moonwomon Birch, Bremner Sue, Luthin Herb, Van Clay Mary, Lerner Jean, & Corcoran Hazel. (1987). It's not just the valley girls: A study of California English. Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society. Washington, DC: eLanguage, the Linguistic Society of America. 117–128.
Holland Cory. (2014). Shifting or shifted? The state of the California vowels. Poster presented at Sound Change in Interacting Human Systems 3rd Biennial Workshop on Sound Change, University of California, Berkeley, May 28–31.
Ingle Jennifer K., Wright Richard, & Wassink Alicia Beckford. (2005). Pacific northwest vowels: A Seattle neighborhood dialect study. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 117:2459.
Irons Terry Lynn. (2007). On the status of low back vowels in Kentucky English: More evidence of merger. Language Variation and Change 19:137180.
Irvine Judith T., & Gal Susan. (2000). Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In Kroskrity P. V. (ed.), Regimes of language: Ideologies, politics, and identities. Santa Fe: SAR Press. 3583.
Kennedy Robert, & Grama James. (2012). Chain shifting and centralization in California vowels: An acoustic analysis. American Speech 87:3956.
Koops Christian. (2010). /u/-fronting is not monolithic: Two types of fronted /u/ in Houston Anglos. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 15:113–122.
Labov William. (1963). The social motivation of a sound change. Word 18:142.
Labov William. (1966). The social stratification of English in New York City. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Labov William. (1991). The three dialects of English. In Eckert P. (ed.), New Ways of analyzing sound change. New York: Academic Press. 144.
Labov William, Ash Sharon, & Boberg Charles. (2006). The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology, and sound change. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
La Chapelle Peter. (2007). Proud to be an Okie: Cultural politics, country music, and migration to Southern California. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ladefoged Peter, & Johnson Keith. (2014). A course in phonetics. Belmont: Cengage Learning.
Little Jo. (2002). Rural geography: Rural gender identity and the performance of masculinity and femininity in the countryside. Progress in Human Geography 26:665670.
Luthin Herbert W. (1987). The story of California (ow): The coming-of-age of English in California. In Denning K. M., Inkelas S., McNair-Knox F. C., & Rickford J. R. (eds.), Variation in language: Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference on New Ways of Analyzing Variation. Stanford: Department of Linguistics, Stanford University. 312–324.
McClarty Jason, & Kendall Tyler. (2014). The relationship between the high and mid back vowels in Oregonian English. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 43, Chicago, Illinois, October 23–26.
Mendoza-Denton Norma. (2008). Homegirls: Language and cultural practice among Latina youth gangs. Malden: Blackwell.
Moonwomon Birch. (1987). Truly awesome: (ɔ) in California English. In Denning K. M., Inkelas S., McNair-Knox F. C., & Rickford J. R. (eds.), Variation in language: Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Conference on New Ways of Analyzing Variation. Stanford: Department of Linguistics, Stanford University. 325–336.
Niedzielski Nancy A., & Preston Dennis. (2003). Folk linguistics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Podesva Robert J. (2011). The California Vowel Shift and gay identity. American Speech 86:3251.
Podesva Robert J., Callier Patrick, & Szakay Anita. (2015). Gender differences in the acoustic realization of creaky voice: Evidence from conversational data collected in inland California. Paper presented at the Linguistic Society of America Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, January 8–11.
Podesva Robert J., Eckert Penelope, Fine Julia, Hilton Katherine, Jeong Sunwoo, King Sharese, & Pratt Teresa. (Forthcoming). Social influences in the degree of stop voicing in inland California. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics.
Podesva Robert J., & Van Hofwegen Janneke. (2014). How conservatism and normative gender constrain variation in inland California: The case of /s/. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 20:129–137.
Preston Dennis R. (1989). Perceptual dialectology. Dordrecht: Foris.
Rickford John R., Ball Arnetha, Blake Renee, Jackson Raina, & Martin Nomi. (1991). Rappin on the copula coffin: Theoretical and methodological issues in the analysis of copula variation in African-American Vernacular English. Language Variation and Change 3:103132.
Rosenfelder Ingrid, Fruehwald Joe, Evanini Keelan, & Yuan Jiahong. (2011). FAVE (Forced Alignment and Vowel Extraction) program suite. Available at: Accessed January 10, 2011.
Thomas Erik R. (1989). The implications of /o/ fronting in Wilmington, North Carolina. American Speech 64:327333.
Thomas Erik R. (2001). An acoustic analysis of vowel variation in New World English. Durham: Duke University Press.
Thomas Erik R., & Kendall Tyler. (2007). NORM: The vowel normalization and plotting suite. Available at: Accessed February 28, 2015.
Traunmüller Hartmut. (1997). Auditory scales of frequency representation. Available at: Accessed January 10, 2011.
Warren Ron, & Fulop Sean. (2014). The merged vowel of pin and pen as realized in Bakersfield, California. Poster presented at the 167th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Providence, RI, May 5–9.
Wassink Alicia Beckford. (2006). A geometric representation of spectral and temporal vowel features: Quantification of vowel overlap in three linguistic varieties. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 119:23342350
Wells John. (1982). Accents of English 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Variation and Change
  • ISSN: 0954-3945
  • EISSN: 1469-8021
  • URL: /core/journals/language-variation-and-change
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 28
Total number of PDF views: 163 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 579 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.