University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Labov, Yaeger and Steiner (1972) describe the Northern Cities Shift (NCS), a chain shift involving the six lax vowels /ae/, /o/, /oh/, /e/, /uh/, and /ih/, in Upstate New York. We recorded 54 interviews with local speakers (ages 18-89) and extracted 14,026 tokens using FAVE (Rosenfelder et al. 2011), which we normalized in R using the Lobanov method (Kendall & Thomas 2010). Our study finds that, while the NCS is clearly present in the area, the shift is sharply reversing in Syracuse: five of the six classic NCS shifts are reversing among younger speakers. This study makes a unique contribution to NCS research by demonstrating reversal of the shift in apparent time from Syracuse, New York. Our study shows how the different cohorts of a large speech community are all following their age-appropriate vectors of change, resulting in a major reversal of a chain shift.