Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This article attempts a detailed reconstruction of recent developments in the history of English short u, the category that in southern English and its descendants shows up as a high vowel in PUT and a lowered vowel in CUT. Combining the comparative method with the interpretation of the historical documentary record, the exercise sets out to answer questions such as the following. At what stage did lowering result in a full-blown split between CUT and PUT? At what point did unrounding set in? Did lowering follow a peripheral or a central trajectory in vowel space? What mechanisms of change were involved — classically regular neogrammarian sound change or irregular lexical diffusion?The comparative aspect of the reconstruction draws heavily on vernacular Englishes which have emerged relatively recently in circumstances of large-scale language contact and shift, particularly those spoken in Ireland, West Africa and the Caribbean. The immediate significance of these varieties is that they emerged during a period when short u was in a state of considerable flux in the metropolitan language. The phonetic realisation and systemic organisation of the PUT and CUT vowels in these varieties offer certain direct insights into the history of short u that are no longer available in other dialects.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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