On the status of low back vowels in Kentucky English: More evidence of merger
In an effort to provide greater understanding of the mechanisms of the diffusion of the low back vowel merger in American English, this study presents a detailed acoustic analysis of low back vowel systems in the speech of 114 native nonurban Kentucky speakers of English. The study reveals unexpected instances of merger in areas of the state that cannot be explained by current theories of merger. In this respect, it argues that these instances of low back vowel merger, while they may be an expansion of an existing merger, result from a distinct mechanism of merger, that is, merger by glide loss. It is predicted that as elements of traditional Southern phonology recede, similar merger will be widespread across the South.
Language Variation and Change, Vol. 19, No. 2, 2007, 137–180.