Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Amanda Dalola


In US English, the merging of the voiceless labiovelar glide [ʍ] and its voiced counterpart [w] has been an ongoing process over the past century, originating in central port cities on the Atlantic seaboard and gradually spreading to include the bulk of the continental US. While described by many sources as still present in Southern American English, the so-called wine-whine merger shows evidence of nearing its completion as its usage becomes increasingly rare even within the Southeast, even as the segment [ʍ] is interpreted as a feature of Southern speech. Despite this fact, very little research has been conducted on the merger, with our knowledge of its extent largely attributable to broad dialect studies which do not focus on any particular linguistic feature. Therefore, the present study utilizes the recorded speech, collected via sociolinguistic interview, of speakers of Southern White American English. In the this paper, the resulting data is submitted to a sociophonetic analysis, in which the presence, duration, and COG of [ʍ] are compared across both demographic and linguistic variables to determine the factors governing its appearance and realization. Results reveal a strong, non-linear relationship between [ʍ] and age, as well as the existence of two sets of social patterns of usage, whereby [ʍ] is simultaneously associated with rurality and localization, as well as the overt prestige of education.

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