Neutral American English

Travis   Mon May 14, 2007 6:09 pm GMT
>>Do you think the CVS would disqualify a speaker from speaking GenAM?<<

Yes, just like with the NCVS (even though it is more common to have a strong NCVS than a strong CVS due to the NCVS predating the CVS).

>>If we raise the bar too high, we might end up without a single speaker of GenAM. Even with the very minimum criteria I've already set up, it's looking like that, already.<<

The biggest thing is that to have any real significant number of people who speak something quite close to General American you would have to remove the requirement that General American is cot-caught unmerged. Most cot-caught unmerged dialects these days are not all too GA-like. And yes, there has been sound changes since the end of WW2 that have greatly contracted the range of dialects which can really be considered as falling under the umbrella of General American.
Jasper   Mon May 14, 2007 6:44 pm GMT
Should we discount the cot/caught merger as a criterium?

On another note--is the route/root merger important?
Lazar   Mon May 14, 2007 10:29 pm GMT
<<On another note--is the route/root merger important?>>

I wouldn't call that a merger; it's simply variation in the pronunciation of one word, as in "caramel" or "garage". It would only be a merger if it were the result of a phonological process.
Sarcastic Northwesterner   Mon May 14, 2007 10:48 pm GMT
>> Is the dipthongization of the a in "family" a feature found only in younger speakers? Or is this feature restricted to the LA area? <<

Actually I would say that this feature is found all throughout the West, although taken to the greatest extent in California. I would say it's probably least noticible in the Pacific Northwest. I think I use about the same [] sound in "ban" as in "bad", however "ban" never becomes *[ban], whereas "bad" could be. I've heard some people here with it though. I hear it much less when people are speaking in a reading voice.
SpaceFlight   Mon May 14, 2007 10:53 pm GMT
<<I wouldn't call that a merger; it's simply variation in the pronunciation of one word, as in "caramel" or "garage". It would only be a merger if it were the result of a phonological process>>

Was the /r\aUt/ pronunciation a spelling pronunciation? I think it probably was, as the pronunciation /rut/ was probably a irregularity in the Great Vowel Shift.
Josh Lalonde   Mon May 14, 2007 11:00 pm GMT
<<I hear it much less when people are speaking in a reading voice.>>

I have the same sort of alternation. I use raised, diphthongized or tense forms for /a/ before nasals and /g/, but in more formal speech I tend to reduce the raising and/or reduce the frequency of its use.
SpaceFlight   Tue May 15, 2007 1:43 am GMT
<<I have the same sort of alternation. I use raised, diphthongized or tense forms for /a/ before nasals and /g/, but in more formal speech I tend to reduce the raising and/or reduce the frequency of its use.>>

Not me. I have a diphthongized form [E@] or perhaps [E_r@] before nasals that I always use. I never have [{] before nasals.
Josh Lalonde   Tue May 15, 2007 2:18 am GMT
It's not a huge alteration in my speech. Raising before /g/ is the first to go, and is even dropped sometimes in casual speech. Sequences of V/n/V (eg. manager) are next most likely to have [a], then probably /nt/, /nd/, /ns/ and the like. Words like 'can' or 'man' with /an/ at the end are probably always raised, but in casual speech they have [E@], while more formally they might have [{_r]. Raising before /N/ doesn't vary with style: it's always [e_o]. /m/ seems to pattern with /n/ but is more likely to cause raising in more formal speech.
can [kE@n] (casual) or [k{_rn] (formal)
can't [kE@~?] casual) or [k{_r~?] (formal)
ham [hE@m] (usually) or [h{_rm] (occasionally)
hang [he_oN]
hag [hE_rg] (casual) or [hag] (formal)
Jasper   Tue May 15, 2007 6:15 am GMT
Sarcastic:

I interviewed the lady from Portland. I wanted to keep it simple, so I stuck to the c/c, the 3m merger, and dipthongization of vowels, including possible NCVshift tendencies.

Result: Subject--young female, Portland, OR. C/C Merged, 3m merged, no dipthongization of vowels except for 'a' in "family", where there is both dipthongization and vowel raising.

You are right; this seems to be confined to the West Coast areas of those states, though, and not to inland areas in those same states. Here's an oddity I found:

Subject: middle aged female, Sacramento CA. C/C incompletely merged, 3m merged, no dipthongization even in "family". I say it's odd because, so far, she's the only one who's not completely merged. The c/c vowels are similar, but not identical; the sound in "caught" is dropped somewhat.

Compare with Subject: middle aged male, Fresno, CA: c/c merged, 3m merged, no dipthongization even in "family"

Here's another. Subject: middle aged female, Las Vegas, NV. Profile identical to Fresno male.

One more: Subject: middleaged male, Grants Pass, OR: c/c merged, 3m merged, No dipthongization even in family, but with noticable--but not parsed--Rocky Mountain Dialect features.

TRAVIS and SARCASTIC: I'm coming to the conclusion that the CVS shift and dipthongization/vowel raising in "family", etc, is confined generally--but not strictly--to the younger generation, and is confined to the West Coast areas of these states. Is this a fair conclusion?

Another question: is the c/c merger complete with all speakers in the West Coast, or is my Sacramento subject a "fluke"?
Jasper   Tue May 15, 2007 6:21 am GMT
Oh! I forgot one. This one is rather interesting.

Subject: Young female, Honolulu, HI. c/c merged 3m merged, no dipthongization except in "family", pronounced CVS tendencies.

Somehow, HI sounding exactly like young Southern Californians seems odd to me.
Travis   Tue May 15, 2007 6:29 am GMT
>>TRAVIS and SARCASTIC: I'm coming to the conclusion that the CVS shift and dipthongization/vowel raising in "family", etc, is confined generally--but not strictly--to the younger generation, and is confined to the West Coast areas of these states. Is this a fair conclusion? <<

That such is primarily confined to younger individuals is not surprising, as the CVS really only dates back about 25 years or so, at least from what I myself have read.
Shatnerian   Tue May 15, 2007 7:36 am GMT
<<Another question: is the c/c merger complete with all speakers in the West Coast, or is my Sacramento subject a "fluke"?>>

I have heard of several older generation San Francisco natives that were not cot/caught merged, but it seems that on the average, the West Coast and Canada have the highest percentage of cot/caught merged speakers. I would be willing to say that probably 98% of West Coast natives that are under the age of thirty are entirely merger. Of course, many of the transplants to the West Coast still hold onto their distinction--even some of the ones that have lived there for thirty years or more.
Lazar   Tue May 15, 2007 4:31 pm GMT
Yeah, I've read that San Francisco was traditionally an island of cot-caught-distinction in an otherwise merged California (maybe San Francisco received an especially large number of migrants from the Northeast US?), but I think nowadays the merger has become common even there.
Jasper   Tue May 15, 2007 5:47 pm GMT
I think we can conclude, then, that older speakers in California do indeed speak English very close to the GenAm standard.

As you all have pointed out, the CVS is more or less restricted to the younger generation--an idea confirmed by my limited field work.

Thank you all for participating; this has been absorbing work.
Jasper   Tue May 15, 2007 6:00 pm GMT
As an aside--I know this isn't germane to the discussion--CVS is pleasant to hear; it makes GenAm sound much less cloying, at least to this Southern/Western ear. The vowel dropping makes vowel production sound clearer, which enhances understanding of the spoken word...