The raising of /æ/ before voiced velars (such that bag is perceived as beg) has been noted and documented sporadically in the American Midwest over the past 60 years. Commentaries range from the impressionistic to the acoustically based. Here we present not only acoustic but also articulatory data from ultrasound gathered from speakers of the dialect in question. Our results from a speech production experiment show that /æ/ is in fact raised before /g/ in the affected dialect, but not so much that it merges with either /e/ or /ϵ/. Instead, this raising appears to follow from coarticulatory effects and is consistent with a perception-based theory that sound change results when listeners fail to correct for such effects and end up internalizing a novel target. Moreover, the proximity of /eg/ to raised /æg/ appears to have led speakers of this dialect to reanalyze the few /eg/ words in the lexicon (e.g., vague, plague, and bagel) as containing /æg/.
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Research Article| November 01 2008
Matt Bauer, Frank Parker; /æ/-RAISING in Wisconsin English. American Speech 1 November 2008; 83 (4): 403–431. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-2008-029
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