Prevelar raising/fronting has been documented as a “defining feature” of Pacific Northwest English, yet its status in nearby California remains unclear. This study investigates prevelar raising/fronting across four Californian field sites. Examining word list data from 276 White speakers and sociolinguistic interview data from 64 White speakers, we complicate assumptions of prevelar conditioning in the West in two ways. First, the authors show that the prevelar pattern is not confined to the Pacific Northwest but is extensive throughout California. Results suggest that, in line with previous work in Washington and Oregon, this prevelar pattern is also on the decline among younger Californians, although the trajectory of change appears to differ from that observed in Washington. As this is yet more evidence that the West is broadly participating in similar vocalic patterns, this article tentatively explores historical migration events as one possible source for the contemporary Western vowel system. Second, the authors also complicate phonetic notions of prevelar “tensing,” showing that F1 and F2 are not always operating in tandem: speakers who raise bag, for example, do not always front bag to the same degree, and vice versa. All of this points to an increasingly complex view of the prevelar pattern and one that warrants continued investigations for theories of sound change.

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