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A socio-phonetic study of the dress, trap and strut vowels in London English


By: Miho Kamata

This study presents a preliminary empirical socio-phonetic investigation of the realisations of the three short vowels DRESS, TRAP and STRUT (Wells 1982a), produced by eight male Londoners, attempting to discover a possible vowel shift involving these vowels in London speech1. Two social characteristics of the subjects, age (young vs. old) and social class (working class (WC) vs. upper middle class (UMC)), are considered in three different speech styles; Interview Style, Reading Passage Style and Word List Style.

Making use of a vowel formant normalisation technique called S-procedure (Watt & Fabricius 2002), a direct comparison of vowel realisations for several individuals are shown on the same plot. As a result, different directional vowel shifts are found between WC and UMC. This paper will also briefly consider, firstly, a conceptual issue regarding accent varieties in London, secondly, a sociolinguistic issue for social class classification based on occupations, and finally a methodological issue in terms of vowel normalisation.

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