Bridget L. Anderson

University of Georgia


A Quantitative Acoustic Approach to /ai/ Glide-weakening among
Detroit African American and Appalachian White Southern Migrants

This paper investigates /ai/ glide-weakening, a highly salient feature of Southern speech (Plichta and Preston 2003), among African American and Appalachian White Southern migrants and their descendants in Detroit. The results show that the middle-aged and younger African American speakers (as well as the Appalachian White speakers) show glide-weakening of /ai/ in the progressive pre-voiceless context, a pattern which according to all but the most recent reports is characteristic only of White speakers. I take a gradient approach to weakening. As Thomas (2001) points out, the length of the /ai/ glide varies between fully diphthongal variants, nuclei with short offglides, and completely monophthongal variants. Although recent socioacoustic work on /ai/ glide-weakening describes varying degrees of diphthongization (e.g. Fridland forthcoming; Thomas 2001), these reports are based on impressionistic interpretations of vowel plots and do not quantify the length and direction of glide movement for F1 and F2. This paper quantifies both the length and direction of the glide. A consistent procedure was used to measure duration and identify temporal locations at which to take measurements for each token in order to fully account for glide movement from midpoint to offset. I analyze speakers' productions of /ai/ and /A/, both between groups and on a speaker-by-speaker basis. Diphthongization is quantified by comparing F1 and F2 movement in /ai/, which exhibits varying degrees of diphthongization, with F1 and F2 movement in /A/, which is used as a reference because it is expected to be relatively monophthongal. These methodological innovations allow for cross-speaker comparisons and facilitate replication by other researchers.

Fridland, Valerie. "Tied, Tie and Tight: /ay/ Monophthongization Among African-Americans and European-Americans in
    Memphis, TN." Journal of Sociolinguistics.
Plichta, Bartek and Dennis Preston. 2003. "The /ay/s Have it: Stereotype, Perception, and Region." Paper presented at New Ways
    of Analyzing Variation 32. University of Pennsylvania.
Thomas, Erik. 2001. An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. A Publication of the American Dialect Society
    85. Durham: Duke University Press.