University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


The study of phonetic variation and change in sociolinguistics predominantly focuses on ‘the vernacular’ or at least on speech occurring in spontaneous conversations. While such studies are obviously vital to understand the patterns of change in a speech community, it is also desirable to understand how patterns of variation and change develop in a ‘prestige’ standard language which may function as a model for normative language. In order to study on-going sound change in standard spoken Danish and their socio-linguistic consequences, the paper investigates the production of a series of front vowels in the news broadcasts of the national Danish radio, DR, arguably the model for the ‘best’ language to the majority of speakers of Danish. The study focuses on changes in the production of two vowel variables, the short (a) and long (æ:), by studying their position in the vowel space relative to neighboring vowels as well as relating these results to the realization of (a) and (æ:) as observed in sociolinguistic interviews. These variables are of particular interest because they have been discussed as emblematic of substandard pronunciation for generations, and because the social evaluation of the raised variants may be changing considerably in the present.