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Abstract

This study is the first of its kind devoted to the acoustic vowel space of the dialect of American English spoken by female residents of Central Minnesota. It uses the methodology that Peterson and Barney (1952) used in their landmark study of General American English (GAE). Hillenbrand et al. (1995) used the same methodology to study Midwest vowels. The present study is based on 12 vowels produced by 22 female college students who grew up in one of the nine counties of Central Minnesota. The study highlights three important ways in which Central Minnesotan vowels differ from vowels produced by those in other parts of the country. First, in Central Minnesota / æ / has two pronunciations. It is pronounced / æ / everywhere else, except when it occurs before / g /. In this context, it is pronounced / ɛ /. This pronunciation causes people who are not familiar with Central Minnesota English (CMnE) to be confused as to whether the speaker intends to say or . The second way in which the dialect of this area differs from GAE and Midwest English (MWE) is the complete merger of / ɑ / and / ɔ /. Therefore, the phonemic inventory of CMnE vowels is reduced to 11 instead of the 12 that we see in other dialects. Finally, the last major change underway concerns the vowel / ʊ /. When the female residents of Central Minnesota produce it, they open their mouths a little wider and do not round their lips enough. As a result, their / ʊ / ends up sounding more like / ʌ /.

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