Vwl Systems

Josef Fruehwald

October 24, 2014


Questions and topics

  1. What happens to /uw/, /ow/ and /aw/ before /l/?
  2. How does this interact with these vowels fronting?
  3. What does this tell us about phonology and phonetic changes?
  4. Assorted loose ends.

What happens to /uw/, /ow/ and /aw/ before /l/?

“What’s really happening to short-a before L in Philadelphia?” (Dinkin, 2013)

  • There is a close phonetic similarity of /awl/, /æl/ and /aw/ (Powel, pal, pow)
  • /awl/ → [æ:l] (Tucker 1944)
  • Apparent tensing of /æl/ is due to it merger to either /awl/ or /aw/

Making it more general

Both /owl/ and /uwl/ are blocked from fronting in Philadelphia

  • Argument 1:
    This is because they both also undergo monophthongization
  • Argument 2:
    This is one phonological rule
  • Argument 3:
    The phonological features selecting /aw/, /ow/ and /uw/ to undergo monopthongization before /l/ are the same that select them to all front

The data

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Vowel Trajectories


Proposal:There is a generalized monophthongization process in the grammar.

  • Vwl → V:l

Phonetic Parallism


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  • Linguistic or social parallism? (Watt 2000)


Random Effects

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Linguistc & Social Factors

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Linguistic & Social Factors

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Linguistic & Social Factors

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Tying them together


Set defining labels

  • Phonology: Pick out members to undergo a phonological process
    • Here: Monophthongization
  • Phonetics: Defines a target phonetic realization
    • Here, the diachronic fronting

Monophthongization and Fronting


Nucleus movement

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Nucleus Movement

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Non-complications and Complications

/uw/, /ow/ and /aw/ don’t always all front

Seems like there’s an implicational scale:

  • if aw
    • then ow and uw
  • if ow
    • then uw
  • uw can front alone.

Phonological Natural Classes

  • I would predict it would be impossible for just /ow/ to front, or only /ow/ not to front.

A real problem

A dialect where only /aw/ fronts, or only /aw/ and /ow/ front, but not /uw/ should be possible, but not attested?

  • But maybe Philadelphian men fit the bill.

/uw/ fronts before /l/ in Manchester

  1. Maybe /l/ doesn’t have the same phonological effect on Manchester /uw/
  2. The phonology → phonetics mapping that’s changing in Manchester might be different from Philadelphia

No gull/goal or pull/pool merger

  1. Al~owl is pretty near-mergery anyway.
  2. It seems like /awl/ → [æ:l] potentiated merger of /æl/ to [æ:l]



  • It’s good to take a systematizing eye to phonetic changes.
  • Phonetic change isn’t commonly taken as evidence for how the phonology → mapping operates, but it’s a rich vein of evidence.