GOOSE-fronting among Chinese Americans in New York City

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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This 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.

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