Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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Centralization of the short /I/ vowel (as in KIT) is regarded by both linguists and lay observers as a defining feature of New Zealand English and even of national identity, especially when contrasted with the close front Australian realization. Variation in the KIT vowel is studied in the conversation of a sociolinguistic sample of 60 speakers of NZE, structured by gender, ethnicity (Maori and Pakeha [Anglo]) and age. KIT realizations are scattered from close front through to rather low backed positions, although some phonetic environments favour fronter variants. All Pakeha and most Maori informants use centralized realizations most of the time, but some older Maori speakers use more close front variants. This group is apparently influenced by the realization of short /I/ in the Maori language, as these are also the only fluent speakers of Maori in the sample. Close front realizations of KIT thus serve as a marker of Maori ethnicity, while centralization marks general New Zealand identity. Centralized /I/ appears to have been established in NZE by the early 20th century


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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