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North Central American English is used to refer to a dialect of American English. It is also known as Upper Midwestern among some linguists. It is spoken, as its name suggests, in the northern portion of the central United States, near Canada. This dialect region includes parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin and Iowa, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is considered a residual region, distinct from the neighboring regions of the West, the North, and Canada.[1]

Contents

Characteristics

Not all of these characteristics are unique to the North Central region.

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Vowels

  • /uː/ and /oʊ/ are "conservative" in this region. In other words, these vowels don't undergo the fronting that is common in some other regions of the United States.
  • In addition to being conservative, /oʊ/ may be monophthongal, sometimes with lengthening: [o] ~ [oː]. The same is true for /eɪ/, which leads to variants like [e] or [eː], though data suggests that monophthongal variants are more common for /oʊ/ than for /eɪ/, and also that they are more common in coat than in ago or road, which may indicate phonological conditioning. Regionally, monophthongal mid vowels are more common in the northern tier of states, occurring more frequently in Minnesota and the Dakotas but much rarer in Iowa and Nebraska.[2] The appearance of monophthongs in this region is sometimes explained as a consequence of the high degree of Scandinavian and German immigration to these northern states in the late nineteenth century. Erik R. Thomas argues that these monophthongs are the product of language contact and notes that other areas where they occur are places where speakers of other languages have had an influence such as the Pennsylvania "Dutch" region.[3] An alternative account posits that these monophthongal variants represent historical retentions. Diphthongization of the mid vowels seems to have been a relatively recent phenomenon, appearing within the last few centuries, and did not affect all dialects in the U.K. The monophthongs heard in this region may stem from the influence of Scots-Irish or other British dialects that maintain such forms. The fact that the monophthongs also appear in Canadian English may lend support to this account since Scots-Irish speech is known as an important influence in Canada.
  • Some speakers exhibit raising of /æ/ before voiced velars (/ɡ/ and /ŋ/), with an up-glide rather than an in-glide, so that bag sounds close to vague. Sometimes the two are merged.[1]
  • Canadian raising of /aɪ/ is found in this region. It occurs before some voiced consonants. For example, many speakers pronounce fire, tiger, and spider with the raised vowel[4]. Some speakers in this region raise /aʊ/ as well[5].
  • The onset of /aʊ/ when not subject to raising is often quite far back, resulting in pronunciations like [ɑʊ].
  • The words roof and root may be variously pronounced with either /ʊ/ or /u/; that is, with the vowel of foot or boot, respectively. This is highly variable, however, and these words are pronounced both ways in other parts of the country.
  • The Mary-marry-merry merger: Words containing /æ/, /ɛ/, or /eɪ/ before an "r" and a vowel are all pronounced "[ɛ]-r-vowel," so that Mary, marry, and merry all rhyme with each other, and have the same first vowel as Sharon, Sarah, and bearing. This merger is widespread throughout the Midwest, West, and Canada.

Consonants

  • North Central speech is rhotic.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Labov, William; Sharon Ash,, Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
  2. ^ Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0816606862. 
  3. ^ Thomas, Erik R. (2001). An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. Publication of the American Dialect Society 85. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822364948
  4. ^ Vance, Timothy J. (1987). ""Canadian Raising" in Some Dialects of the Northern United States". American Speech (Durham, NC: Duke University Press) 62 (3): 195–210. http://www.jstor.org/stable/454805. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  5. ^ Kurath, Hans; Raven I. McDavid (1961). The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-8173-0129-1. 

Further reading

  • Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8
  • Kortmand, Bernd, Schneider, Edgar W. (2004). A Handbook of Varieties of English. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110175320, 9783110175325

External links


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