- The phonetic and phonological systems of large urban areas in the US Midlands have not been sufficiently described.
- Mechanisms driving ongoing sound changes in the US Midlands (and more broadly in American Englishes) have been widely studied, but are not yet fully understood.
- I conducted sociolinguistic interviews in Kansas City, and measured the acoustic characteristics of vowels spoken during these interviews.
- I apply a range of quantitative approaches to measure and model the vowel system Kansas City English.
- Kansas City English is undergoing a number of sound changes, including a series of conditional mergers of back vowels before /l/, ‘Canadian raising,’ and short vowel retraction, which all challenge the community’s characterisation as a Midland dialect area (or challenge the characterisation of the Midland dialect area).
- The pattern of short vowel retraction in Kansas City has been attested to in many American English dialects, and is typically assumed to be a ‘drag chain’ caused by the low-back merger. Kansas City data shows that this sound change is not operating as a ‘drag chain,’ meaning researchers must examine the causation of the sound change in other American Englishes more closely.
- Changes in the phonological status of vowels advance perceptually (i.e., people stop recognising two vowels as distinct) more rapidly than they advance productively.
To find out more:
Strelluf, Christopher. 2019. Structural and social correlations with the Low-Back-Merger Shift in a U.S. Midland community. In Kara Becker (ed.), The Low-Back-Merger Shift: Uniting the Canadian Vowel Shift, the California Vowel Shift, and Short Front Vowel Shifts across North America [Publication of the American Dialect 104], 120–143. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Strelluf, Christopher. 2018. Speaking from the Heartland: The Midland vowel system of Kansas City. [Publication of the American Dialect Society 103.] Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Strelluf, Christopher. 2016. Overlap among back vowels before /l/ in Kansas City. Language Variation and Change 28(3). 379-407.