Wong, Amy Wing-mei
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PublicationThe Lowering of Raised-THOUGHT and the Low-Back Distinction in New York City: Evidence from Chinese Americans(2012-09-01) Wong, Amy Wing-meiThis paper examines the production of the thought and lot vowel classes by New Yorkers of Chinese heritage. Sixteen New York-born Chinese American males between the ages of 11 and 61 were sampled. About 600 thought and lot tokens were instrumentally measured and normalized for statistical analyses and plotting. A linear regression analysis and a correlation test find evidence of the reversal of thought-raising. The height (normalized F1) of thought lowers as speaker’s year of birth increases. In other words, older Chinese New Yorkers are more likely to produce thought-raising than the younger ones. The finding corroborates Becker’s (2010) results from European New Yorkers. To determine how the lowering of thought may have affected the low back distinction in New York City English, this study utilized the Pillai-Bartlette trace and the Euclidean distance between lot and thought as measurements of the magnitude of the low back distinction, along with visual examination of individual vowel plots. Despite the lowering of thought across apparent-time, most, if not all, speakers continue to maintain the low back distinction. However, the lot and thought classes for a few younger speakers are very close in the vowel space with some overlapping tokens. Their low back vowels configuration resembles the patterns exhibited by the “transitional speakers” in the Midland area in Labov et al. (2006), whose thought and lot classes are neither completely merged nor completely distinct. These results call for further work on the low back vowels of speakers of other social and ethnic groups in order to investigate the future trajectory of the thought vowel vis-à-vis the robustness of the low back distinction in the English of New York City. PublicationThe Short-a System of New York City English: An Update(2010-03-21) Becker, Kara; Wong, Amy Wing-meiThis paper reports on the current status of the short-a system in New York City English (NYCE), traditionally characterized as a phonemic split conditioned by the following phonological environment and a complex set of additional constraints (Labov 2007, Labov, Ash, and Boberg 2006). We provide apparent-time evidence from twelve white native New Yorkers of three age groups that the complex short-a split is changing over time, such that the system is losing its complex conditioning among our young white speakers. These results raise questions concerning the continuing characterization of NYCE short-a as phonemic. Additionally, we demonstrate that young native New Yorkers of ethnic minority backgrounds (Chinese, Puerto Rican, and African American) who speak English natively do not produce the traditional NYCE split, but instead produce a nasal tensing system (Labov 2007). In addition to providing current results suggesting change in white NYCE, this study contributes to the growing literature in sociolinguistics regarding ethnic minority speakers and their production of regional dialect features. PublicationGOOSE-fronting among Chinese Americans in New York City(2014-10-01) Wong, Amy Wing-meiThis paper presents an analysis on the production of the GOOSE vowel by thirty-two New York-born and raised Chinese Americans, born between 1940 and 1998. The analytic focus is on the frontness of this vowel. Although the fronting of goose in words like tooth and food is a surpra-regional feature attested in many varieties of English and among speakers of different ethnic backgrounds, there is little systematic study of this vowel in New York City among non-Anglo-speakers (except Cogshall and Becker 2010). Regression analysis on the data found that the GOOSE vowel produced by Chinese New Yorkers is consistent with the pattern observed for the region and follows known phonologically conditioning documented in existing literature. The vowel after coronals (the TOO class) is more fronted than the vowel after non-coronals (the HOOP class). However, there is little evidence that Chinese Americans continue to front TOO over apparent-time. Instead, there is a trend towards fronted HOOP. There is also a significant variation in the frontness of GOOSE across stylistic contexts: GOOSE in the reading context is more fronted than in the interview context. At the level of the individuals, there is a great deal of intra-speaker variation. Some speakers who produce very fronted tokens of GOOSE also use rather retracted tokens. Close examinations of the speech and personae of a middle-school girl reveals that she varies the frontness of GOOSE to take stances and express affects. This, along with the result on stylistic variation, suggests that this supra-regional feature that is sometimes argued to lack region-specific associations may still function as a resource to index locally relevant meanings.