An articulatory study of GOOSE-fronting in varieties of English
Mills, L. (2014) An articulatory study of GOOSE-fronting in varieties of English, no. 112.
The aims of the study were to discover more about patterns of a recent vowel change known as GOOSE-fronting (as studied by e.g. Cheshire et al. 2011) in accents of English. GOOSE-fronting is a term for the phenomenon in which the high, back /u/ vowel is produced with the tongue in a more advanced position in the mouth than would be expected from the traditional description of /u/. Articulatory analysis methods were used. The usefulness of Ultrasound Tongue Imaging (UTI), and in particular the analytical method employed in the current study, for the quantification of variation between vowel systems was tested. The rationale for the study was that normative information on accent variation is valuable to professionals such as speech therapists in making informed clinical decisions, and the particular feature of GOOSE-fronting was chosen, because it has been a topic of interest in sociolinguistic research in recent years. Additionally, UTI is a relatively new and untested method for examining vowel systems; the current study highlights potential methodological issues. Synched audio and UTI word list recordings of twenty speakers from the Seeing Speech corpus (Lawson 2013) were analysed. The participants were aged between 20-35 and spoke a variety of dialects of English from England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. Average splines taken for the GOOSE (see Wells 1982) vowel, and also the anchor vowels FLEECE, GOAT and TRAP (ibid.). The highest tongue surface points for each average spline were identified and proportional measurements of fronting and lowering calculated, to allow for inter-speaker comparison. An acoustic analysis was then carried out, in which formant values were identified for the same timepoints at which the tongue splines were drawn. Average F1 and F2 values were calculated for each vowel. Proportional measurements of fronting and lowering were again calculated. Tests of statistical correlation were implemented in order to determine the validity of the UTI method for both fronting and lowering. The main findings were that GOOSE-fronting was present to some extent in all the accents studied; there was a strong GOOSE-lowering trend in Scottish English shown by both types of analysis (articulatory and acoustic); and the UTI method used correlated more closely with acoustic results for close-open measurements than for front-back measurements, and therefore may be more suitable for analysing vowel height than fronting or retraction.