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Abstract

English vowels have been in a state of flux since the 1400s (Fromkin et al. 2014:342). Around that time mid tense vowels shifted upward and high tense vowels became diphthongs. This is known as the Great Vowel Shift (GVS). English vowels have not stopped their restlessness ever since. In 1972 Labov and a group of sociolinguists “discovered” another shift that had been taking place in the cities of the Great Lakes region of the US. This shift has been nicknamed the “Northern Cities Shifts” (NCS) because it was first noticed in Detroit, Rochester, and Syracuse. Gordon (2006:109) writes that NCS has now spread well beyond its epicenter and is moving across other cities in the upper Midwest and even to rural areas as far west as Minnesota. The goal of this paper is to determine whether or not, and to what extent NCS has reached Central Minnesota, a semi-rural area that is culturally conservative, demographically, and ethnically fairly homogeneous. To this effect, a total of 1,122 vowel tokens produced by 12 male and 22 female Central Minnesotans are studied. The data are compared and contrasted acoustically with the vowels of General American English (GAE) in Peterson and Barney (1952) and those of NCS areas in Labov et al. (2006).

Author Bio

Ettien Koffi is a professor of Linguistics. He teaches the linguistics courses in the TESOL/Applied Linguistics M.A. program in the English Department at Saint Cloud State University, MN. He has written three linguistic books: Language Society in Biblical Times (1996), Applied English Syntax (2010), and Paradigm Shift in Language Planning and Policy: Game Theoretic Solutions (2012). He is the author of many peerreviewed articles on various topics in linguistics. His primary area of specialization is at the interface between acoustic phonetics and phonology. He has extensive experience in emergent orthographies and in the acoustic phonetic and phonological description

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