Yod dropping on the East Anglian periphery

David Britain, Jennifer Clare Amos, Juliette Spurling

University of Essex, United Kingdom


It has been widely reported that a number of varieties of English (e.g. in parts of Canada (Clarke 1993, Chambers 1998), the US (Clifton 1959, Pitts 1986), and England (Przedlacka 2002)) do not realise the palatal glide /j/ when it occurs before /u:/ and after coronals (see examples 1-3).

1. tune [tu:n]

2. duke [du:k]

3. news [nu:z]

However, varieties of English in East Anglia, and to some extent the East Midlands, omit the glide after all consonants (e.g. 4-10) and only feature /j/ in syllable onsets when the glide is not preceded by another consonant (e.g. 11) (Trudgill 1974, 2004, Foulkes and Docherty 2007).

4. music [mu:zk]

5. beauty [bu:i]

6. few [fu:]

7. cute [ku:]

8. view [vu:]

9. puke [pu:k]

10. huge [hu:d]

11. ewe [ju:]

Wells claims yod dropping in East Anglia is ‘very widespread’ (1982: 338) and this feature is often highlighted as one of the principal defining and differentiating characteristics of this variety (e.g. McArthur 2002: 66). However, given the influence that varieties of South-East England are beginning to have on East Anglian English (see Trudgill 1983, 1986, Britain 2005), it is not surprising perhaps that yod dropping has become a candidate for attrition, especially at the margins of the core East Anglian dialect region.

In addition, a relatively recent change labelled by Wells as “yod coalescence” (1982: 247-248; see also Altendorf and Watt, 2004; Przedlacka 2002; Ryfa fc), is affecting some of the contexts in which yod dropping can be found in East Anglia, causing preceding /t d n/ and /h/ + /j/ to palatalise (e.g. 12-15).

12. tune [t:n]

13. duke [d:k]

14. news [:z]

15. huge [:]

In this paper, we examine change in the use of yod dropping and yod coalescence across apparent time in three locations in the East Anglian periphery. These are the Fens in the north-west of East Anglia, along with the urban centre of Ipswich and the rural community of Mersea Island in the south-east. Our aims are to investigate:

a) to what extent yod dropping is undergoing attrition;

b) the extent to which coalescence has penetrated these communities; and

c) the social and linguistic constraints on the variation in each location.

Our results show that, while in the south-eastern communities of Ipswich and Mersea Island, yod dropping is indeed undergoing rapid attrition, it is highly maintained in the Fens, even among younger speakers. Coalescence is relatively infrequent in the Fens, but has been making major inroads, in the relevant linguistic environments, into the urban and rural south-east.

Session: Paper session
Variation 5 (Phonological)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 15