How Phonetic Changes Happen

Josef Fruehwald (2014)

Abstract

In this talk, I'll walk through a careful case study of a change in pronunciation that took place in Philadelphia across the 20th century which is based on acoustic analysis of archival recordings. The goal is to revisit some first principles about how changes like these take place. For people with an interest in language change, but without specific background in sound changes, this should should be informative about the properties of phonetic changes that are distinct from other kinds of language change. For people with a specific background in sound change, I hope to challenge the conventional wisdom that phonetic changes are driven primarily by bottom-up factors, like coarticulation, sampling with noise, etc. Rather, there seem to be important top-down, categorizing factors which play a crucial role from the very onset of this change.

Presented at Newcastle University

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