While the retraction of trap is found throughout the American West, it is primarily associated with California and supposed Californian values in both the popular media and the ears of Californian listeners. This study investigates the local construction of meaning for a supralocal sound change by examining perceptions of trap backing in Kansas, a locale that has also undergone front lax vowel retraction. Thirty-five college students heard matched-guise stimuli differing only by trap F2, guessed speakers’ regional origin, and rated speakers on 14 affective scales. Listeners associated trap backing with California (despite local participation in the sound shift) and general prestige. The authors suggest that this association with general prestige may help to explain the presence of this vowel shift in Kansas despite considerable ideological differences with California. They argue that these results highlight the interaction between local construction of meaning and broader national discourses for a sound change: while stereotypical associations with a sound change can spread rapidly through means like popular media, stance and identity associations are constructed at the local level.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.