Internal and external motivation in phonetic change: dialect levelling outcomes for an English vowel shift

Eivind Torgersen, Paul Kerswill

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This article is a contribution to the debate about the primacy of internal versus
external factors in language change (Farrar and Jones 2002; Thomason and
Kaufman 1988). Taking Labov’s Principles of Vowel Shifting (Labov 1994) as
representing internal factors,we examine avowel shift in Ashford, south-east
of London. F1and F2measurements of the short vowels suggestaclassic chain
shift, largely following Labov’s Principles II and III (though Labov’s assumption
that London short front vowels are rising is shown to be wrong). However,
corresponding data from Reading, west of London, evidence no signs of a chain
shift. The two datasets show identical targets for the changes in each town.
Thus, there has been convergence between the two short vowel systems ^ from
di¡erent starting points.We argue that a dialect contact model is more explanatory
than internal factors in this case of regional dialect levelling in the
south-east of England.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-53
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Sociolinguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004

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© 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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