This study considers the dynamic trajectory of the back-vowel fronting of the BOOT and BOAT vowels for 27 speakers in a unique, longstanding context of a substantive, tri-ethnic contact situation involving American Indians, European Americans, and African Americans over three disparate generations in Robeson County, North Carolina. The results indicate that the earlier status of Lumbee English fronting united them with the African American vowel system, particularly for the BOOT vowel, but that more recent generations have shifted towards alignment with European American speakers. Given the biracial Southeastern U.S. that historically identified Lumbee Indians as “free persons of color” and the persistent skepticism about the Lumbee Indians as merely a mixed group of European Americans and African Americans, the movement away from the African American pattern towards the European American pattern was interpreted as a case of oppositional identity in which Lumbee Indians disassociate themselves from African American vowel norms in subtle but socially meaningful ways.

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