This study investigates the variable patterning of two English phonemes, /ɔ/ and /æ/, in the speech of 24 second- and 1.5-generation Korean Americans from Bergen County, New Jersey, which borders New York City and contains the most densely populated Korean American community in the United States. Detailed acoustic phonetic analysis reveals that in general Bergen County Korean Americans produce a raised /ɔ/ nucleus, in accordance with New York City English, and tense /æ/ in prenasal environments, in accordance with General American English. Positive correlations between speaker age and the frontness of /ɔ/ and distance in vowel space between /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ suggest a change in apparent time toward fronting of /ɔ/ and shortening of the distance between two vowels (and hence possibly movement toward a low back merger). Speaker sex patterns are also apparent, with female speakers showing a closer distance and more overlap between /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ than male speakers, and females showing a clearer split between tense /æ/ in prenasal environments and lax /æ/ elsewhere. In general, the patterning of variation for /æ/ among Bergen County Korean Americans shows an alignment to the general American norm, while the patterning for /ɔ/ suggests that Korean Americans are adopting the local norm. Future research will be needed to corroborate these patterns across a wider range of speaker ages.
Research Article|August 01 2016
Jinsok Lee; The Participation of a Northern New Jersey Korean American Community in Local and National Language Variation. American Speech 1 August 2016; 91 (3): 327–360. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-3701037
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