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The History of Front Rounded Vowels in New Braunfels German

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Abstract

While earlier studies of New Braunfels German (NBG), a dialect of Texas German (TxG), e.g., Eikel (1954, 1966b) and Gilbert (1972), report the existence of front rounded vowels to various degrees, they are almost completely absent from present-day NBG (Boas 2009). This paper describes the history of such vowels in NBG and assesses possible causes of their loss. We first sketch the history of German in Texas, in order to set the stage for the following discussion. We then review the status of front rounded vowels in NBG, as reported by three landmark studies of TxG, namely Eikel (1954), Gilbert (1972), and Boas (2009), and then discuss motivations for their loss. We argue that five major factors drove this loss: (1) the original donor dialects of NBG, (2) the markedness of front rounded vowels, (3) contact with English, (4) limited exposure to Standard German, and (5) the changing linguistic and social contexts of NBG.

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