University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Using the data from the new CUNY Corpus of New York City English, we explore a phonological analysis by Kaye (2012) that argues that the New York City English (NYCE) PALM shares an underlying 'stem vowel' with PRIZE. Kaye's proposal is based on two observations: (i) the phonetic similarities of PALM and the nucleus of PRIZE and (ii) the conditioning factors that have led to the historical relexicalization of many Middle English short-o words from LOT to PALM are the same as those that have led relexicalization PRICE words to PRIZE. However, it has previously been observed that PALM is merging with LOT in NYCE. Consequently, it would be likely that if that vowel shares an underlying identity with PRIZE, PRIZE too should be merging. In fact, our data show a complex pattern. First, although PRIZE is backer than PRICE, there is considerable overlap. Also, the PRIZE nucleus tends to coincide with LOT more than PALM. Second, more younger speakers, who have a merged PALM-LOT, do not show a merged PRIZE-PRICE, but a new form of distinction, in which PRICE and PRIZE are now in a Canadian Raising pattern. In this way, NYCE loses a locally distinctive vowel configuration to match a widespread northeastern US regional pattern with a two-vowel low back system and Canadian Raising involving PRICE and PRIZE. In sum, the data show the complexity of the relationship between vowels in subsystems and that reconfigurations may involve multiple elements.



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