David Durian’s Dissertation Now Available

Final versions of all 8 chapters of David’s 2012 Dissertation A New Perspective on Vowel Variation Across the 19th and 20th Centuries in Columbus, OH is now available. A pdf containing all 8 chapters as one file is also now available. You can find these files here–http://www.ling.ohio-state.edu/~ddurian/Dissertation/.

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Updated Dissertation Chapter Outline Now Posted

An updated Dissertation Chapter Outline, based on work completed this summer and now ongoing into fall, 2012, on drafts of chapters, is now available.

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Summary of 20th Century Euro-American Columbus Vocalic Sound Change Patterns Now Available on CLCC Web Site!

A fairly brief and general summary of the major vowel variation and sound change trends found in the 20th Century Columbus speaker vowel systems I posted yesterday on the CLCC Web site is now available. The summary provides a semi-technical general overview of the patterns aimed at readers with a basic background in sociophonetics. A much more detailed discussion of all the patterns discussed will follow on down the road when my dissertation is complete. However, until that time, I have posted this summary to “hold folks over” until that more detailed discussion becomes available.

The summary can be found under the “Vowels” tab on the following page of the CLCC Web site:


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The big drop: All 62 speaker vowel plots now available on CLCC Web site!

All 62 speaker full vowel system vowel plots are now available on the Century of Language Change in Columbus Web site. All have been posted in both raw Hz (unnormalized) and normalized variants. Although a general summary of the patterns of vowel variation and sound change to be found across the data set has yet to be placed on the Web site (the page is still under construction), this content will be added shortly.*

The vowel plots can be found on the CLCC European American English: 20th Century Results page.

(* A general summary of 19th Century patterns of vowel variation and sound change among European Americans will also finally be available shortly, as well.)

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Slide show from presentation on split “short a” in Columbus now available

In November, 2010, I gave a brief presentation regarding the historical occurrence of the split short a system in Columbus for the OSU discussion group Changelings. The presentation is entitled “Is it Northern Cities or is it split? Reassessing the historical tensing and raising of /ae/ in Columbus in real and apparent time.” The slide show from this presentation, which includes a more detailed look at many of the short a system vowel plots that were posted here earlier, as well as a chart detailing the phonetic details of the split short a system in Columbus, is now available on the Presentations page of my CLCC Web Site.

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Short-a in Columbus, from split system to nasal system: A cross-generational perspective*

Included via the link below are images of short-a systems of a variety of Columbus speakers. Included among the systems are those of speakers from both of the social class groups (blue and white collar) and all 4 of the generational groups analyzed instrumentally in my dissertation. In addition, the plots are split by speaker sex into two groups (men and women).

Note that clicking on the plots enlarges them, and that one can actually scroll through the images like a slide show (and in fact, the images have been laid out to facilitate doing so) on the linked page.


In these images we can see two things that have changed over the course of the 20th Century about the short-a system in Columbus since the end of the 19th Century.

A change from the split short-a system to the nasal short-a system

The first thing is that short-a changed from a split system, much like the type found historically in Eastern US cities such as New York and Philadelphia, to a nasal system. In the split system, /ae/ is split into two phonemes–/ae/ and /ae:/. In the nasal system, /ae/ is one phoneme with two principle variants:

a) a raised realization in words that end with a nasal sound (and where the /ae/ occurs immediately before that nasal sound)
b) a lower and somewhat retracted realization in words that do not end in nasal sounds (again, where the /ae/ immediately occurs before the non-nasal sound)

Generation 1 speakers (those born between 1896 and 1912) show the clearest examples of the split system, whereas Generation 4 speakers (those born between 1976 and 1990) show the clearest examples of the nasal system. Speakers born in Generations 2 (born c. 1924-1937) tend to show continuous short-a systems–that is, /ae/ realizations are essentially “spread out” across a field of possible realizations that fall somewhere between the split system and the nasal system.

Generation 3 speakers (born c. 1945-1968) show an interesting pattern of social class differentiation, with working class speakers tending to show stronger tendencies towards continuous systems, like Generation 2 speakers have, and middle class speakers tending to show stronger tendencies toward nasal systems, like those found among Generation 4 speakers. However, some middle class speakers in Generation 3 do not always have as large of gap between their nasal and non-nasal tokens as Generation 4 speakers do.

The reversal of the glide of /ae/ over time

The second thing we notice is the reversal of the glide of /ae/ over time, as revealed when one looks “across time” at the patterns of realization shown by the different generational groups in the plots. Looking across the images, when we compare generation 1 speakers (born 1896-1912) with generation 2 speakers (born 1924-1937) we also begin to see a pattern of “/ae/-rotation” where the realization of non-pre-nasal and non-pre-velar /ae/ in Columbus on average changes from that of a falling diphthong to a rising diphthong. Descriptively, this change is demonstrated in the raw Hz plots included here. This tend continues and intensifies in the speech of later generations (generations 3 and 4). Generation 3 (born c. 1945-1968) in particular shows the intensification of this trend. Generation 4 (born c. 1976-1990) tends to show the final outcome of the process in the plotted means for those speakers BAT and BAD subclasses.

Note that, unlike we have often come to expect in sociolinguistic studies, it is actually middle class men who “lead” on showing this sound change overall (and not working class women), as well as retraction of /ae/ more generally. It also the case that middle class women tend to lead over working class women, when their patterns are compared across the time window investigated, as well. (Essentially the whole of the 20th Century, using speaker birth dates as a way of tracking time for comparative purposes.)

*Note: This topic will be addressed in extensive detail in the near future in:

Durian, David. 2011. Chapter 5: The inception and development of the Canadian Shift in Columbus. A new perspective on vowel variation throughout the 20th Century in Columbus, OH. Doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University.

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Learn more about BOUT-recession in Columbus at the 2011 ADS meeting in Pittsburgh

Here is the full and expanded abstract for my talk on this subject at the Annual Meeting of the American Dialect Society*…

The impact of the Canadian Shift on /aw/-fronting in Columbus, OH

David Durian, The Ohio State University and Joliet Junior College

Recent studies of Columbus, Ohio have found evidence both of the Canadian Shift (that is, retraction of /ae/ linked to (near)-merger of /a/ and /ɔ/, as well as retraction of /I/ and /E/ linked to retraction of /ae/), as well as the back vowel parallel shift (fronting of the nuclei of /uw/, /ow/, and /aw/) in the vowel systems of speakers born after 1960 (Durian, 2008; 2009; 2011).

In this paper, we present the results of an apparent time investigation exploring the interaction of the retraction of the low vowels involved in the Canadian Shift and fronting of the nucleus of /aw/. This relationship proves interesting to explore because, given the trajectory of these vowel shifts, we might expect a “collision” in production of the nuclei of /aw/ and /ae/ to eventually occur in the vowel systems of young speakers. That is, unless some force intervenes to prevent such a collision. Data are drawn from sociolinguistic interviews conducted with 68 European-American speakers—35 men and 33 women—belonging to 4 generational cohorts born between 1896-1990 and divided evenly by social class background (middle vs. working).

As the results of our study reveal, such collision does not in fact occur. Although /aw/ shows a strong nuclear fronting trend among the oldest 3 cohorts regardless of sex or class background, the youngest cohort (speakers born after 1975) shows a complete reversal of this trend–that is, strong nuclear backing among most speakers. Among the youngest cohort, speakers who also lead in production of the Canadian Shift, in particular /ae/-retraction, tend to also be the strongest retractors of /aw/, again, regardless of sex or class background.

This makes the production of /aw/ among young speakers in Columbus more like that reported among speakers of comparable age in McComb, IL (Frazer, 1983) and Johnstown, OH (Thomas, 2001), both Midland cities. In addition, it is also like the /aw/ reported to be found more recently among younger speakers in Pittsburgh, where many have begun to realize /aw/ more diphthongally, as reported in McCarthy (2004). Given that reversal of /aw/ is strongly correlated with /ae/-retraction, we suggest that /aw/-retraction in Columbus, and quite likely in all of the cities discussed above, may develop as a subconscious strategy among speakers to prevent the “collision” of the /ae/ and /aw/ classes in production as /ae/ retracts.


-Durian, David. 2008. A new perspective on vowel variation throughout the 20th Century in Columbus, OH. Paper presented at NWAV 37, Houston, TX.
-Durian, David. 2009. Purely a chain shift?: An exploration of the “Canadian Shift” in the US Midland. Paper presented at NWAV 38, Ottawa, Canada.
-Durian, David. 2011. A new perspective on vowel variation throughout the 20th Century in Columbus, OH. Doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University.
-Frazer, Timothy. 1983. Sound change and social structure in a rural community. Language in Society, 12:313-328.
-McCarthy, Corrine. 2004. Language change in Pittsburgh: The decline of /aw/-monophthongization and the Canadian Shift. Poster presented at NWAVE 33, Ann Arbor, MI.
-Thomas, Erik R. 2001. An acoustic analysis of vowel variation in New World English. Publication of the American Dialect Society, 85. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

* P.S.: For those interested and attending either ADS or LSA, my paper will be at 12 noon, on Friday, January 7, 2011.

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Analysis of 19th Century patterns of Columbus vowel variation near completion

The analysis of the vowel systems of speakers initially interviewed for the Linguistic Atlas of the North Central States [LANCS] in 1933 is near completion. The speakers interviewed were born c. 1850 and thus, their vowel systems provide us with a glimpse at what vowel variation in 19th Century Columbus would have “looked like”. Material relevant to speakers born during this time period will be included in my dissertation as a kind of “prequel” to the discussion of 20th Century patterns of vowel variation and change that is the primary focus of the work.

Previously, a complete analysis of these speakers’ vowel systems has never yet been published. Some material on the low back vowels appeared in Nobbelin’s (1980) dissertation and two papers by Marckwardt in the early 1940s (1940; 1942). In addition, data on the speakers’ /ae/s appeared in Thomas (2006), as well as an unpublished manuscript by Thomas written in 2004.

The remaining vowel system data have yet to appear in any kind of systematic analyzed form due to editorial issues that plagued LANCS for years after the completion of its field work stage in the mid-1950s. In addition, in recent years, the fact that the raw data have only been available on microfilm has tended to decrease easy access for many researchers. Given this history, my dissertation will be the first place the data will finally be available in such a systematically analyzed form.

More information will be available soon.


– Marckwardt, Albert H. 1940. Middle English 6 in American English of the Great Lakes Area. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters, 26: 561-571.
– Marckwardt, Albert H. 1942. Middle English ‘wa’ in the speech of the Great Lakes Region. American Speech, 17.4:226-234.
– Nobbelin, Kenneth. 1980. The low back vowels of the North Central States. Doctoral Dissertation, Illinois Institute of Technology.
– Thomas, Erik R. 2004. The perpetuation of historical dialect patterns in Ohio. Manuscript.
– Thomas, Erik R. 2006. Evidence from Ohio on the evolution of /ae/. In Thomas E. Murray and Beth Lee Simon (Eds.), Language variation and change in the American Midland. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Company. pp. 69-89.

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Dissertation population characteristics now available

Information concerning speaker population characteristics, a definition of Columbus as an urban area, and a definition of native speaker for the purposes of the dissertation have now been posted here at the blog. They can be found under the “Study Population” in the Navigation area.

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BOUT-recession pervasive among most post-1975 born speakers

With the completion of the first round of measurement clean up, my preliminary analysis of the raw Hz data reveals that BOUT-recession (that is the backing of the nucleus of /aU/) has been much more pervasive among young Columbusites (folks born between roughly 1975 and 1990) than we previously thought*. In particular, my analysis suggests BOUT-recession has been particularly pervasive in young women’s speech, regardless of their social class background. In addition, working class men of similar age are also showing a trend toward backer BOUT realizations than speakers in previous generations, although individuals within the young working class men’s group show more mixed results than either of the younger women’s groups tend to.

Interestingly, middle class men show considerably less vowel movement in this regard compared to other speakers in their age cohort. However, cross-generational comparative data suggest the difference may be related to the earlier development of aspects of the Canadian Shift in middle class men’s speech versus other groups historically. As it is, middle class men in earlier generations have typically had backer BOUTs to begin with (potentially as a result of having backer BOTs and /ae/s), so the current generation has “less ground to backwards cover” than other groups, if you will.

More discussion of the potential relationship of BOUT recession to the backing of the nuclei of /ae/ and BOT (cf, Durian, 2008; 2009; Durian, et al., 2010) in Columbus will follow shortly…

(* This “overturns” the historical trend among Columbus speakers–men and women, working and middle class, alike–to show frontward movement of the nucleus of /aU/. The fronting trend is found among speakers in the groups analyzed born between c. 1896 and 1970 in my dissertation data.)


– Durian, David. 2009. Purely a chain shift?: An exploration of the “Canadian Shift” in the US Midland. Paper presented at NWAV 38, Ottawa, Canada.
– Durian, David. 2008. A new perspective on vowel variation across the 20th Century in Columbus, OH. Paper presented at NWAV 37, Houston, TX.
– Durian, David. Robin Dodsworth, and Jennifer Schumacher. 2010. Convergence in blue collar Columbus, Ohio African American and White vowel systems? In Malcah Yeager-Dror and Erik R. Thomas (Eds.). African American English speakers and their participation in local sound changes: A comparative study. Publication of the American Dialect Society, 94. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 161-190.

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