Getting fed up with our feet: Contrast maintenance and the New Zealand English “short” front vowel shift
The DRESS vowel in New Zealand English (NZE) has been raising for some time, so that it now overlaps the acoustic space of FLEECE for many younger speakers. This article presents an acoustic analysis of the DRESS and FLEECE vowels of 80 speakers and shows that DRESS continues to raise in contemporary NZE so that for some speakers DRESS has risen above FLEECE and can be more front than FLEECE. FLEECE has diphthongized as a consequence, making it part of the New Zealand “short front vowel” shift. This suggests that the short/long distinction in New Zealand English may have broken down, at least for the front vowels. The diphthongization of FLEECE is most advanced in tokens that are followed by voiceless codas. These are the tokens that are most endangered by the high DRESS, as they are distinguished neither in acoustic space, nor by length. a
a We wish to thank the students who made the original recordings for the Canterbury Corpus and our research assistants Deborah Sagee and Toby Macrae for help with digitizing and marking up the data. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the International Australian Conference on Speech Science and Technology, December 2004, and we are grateful to members of the audience for useful suggestions. Christian Langstrof, Elizabeth Gordon, and an anonymous referee have made useful comments on an earlier draft, and we are also indebted to Elliott Moreton, whose suggestions considerably facilitated our ability to make sense of this data set. This work was partially funded by a grant from the University of Cantebury (U6286).