Age-based perceptions of a reversing regional sound change

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4 Scopus citations


Sound changes in progress can be examined in apparent time through differences in production across speaker age groups. Additionally, perceptions of sound changes in progress have been shown to be influenced by listener characteristics, including listener age, in ways that mirror production patterns. However, relatively little is known about the ways in which sound changes that have moved from advancing to reversing in production over time are perceived by community members. This paper examines how listeners of various ages within one U.S. community in Chicago produce and perceive vowels implicated in the region's characteristic Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCS), which is undergoing reversal over time. Findings from a vowel categorization task show that significant age differences emerged in the opposite direction from those in production—younger participants show significantly more NCS-like perceptual boundaries than older speakers for just those features for which they are reversing the NCS in production. Results suggest that sociolinguistic perception is not simply a reflection of an individual's static social position within a community, from which matched production and perceptual patterns are derived. Instead, a listener's own positionality, experience and ideas about others in their community may condition their sociolinguistic expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101038
JournalJournal of Phonetics
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Northern Cities vowel shift
  • Regional variation
  • Sociophonetics
  • Sound change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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