If you say, “wooder ice,” when you order a water ice treat or scream, “Go Iggles!” when the Eagles are playing the dreaded Dallas Cowboys, chances are, you’re from Philadelphia—or as some residents call it, “Fluffya.”
A new Penn linguistics study shows that traditional Southern inflections associated with Philadelphia native-born speakers are being affected by Northern influences.A co-author of the study, William Labov, professor in the Linguistics Department at Penn and director of Penn’s Linguistics Laboratory, explains some of the findings:
“This is a breathtaking view of language change over a long period of time,” Labov says. Approximately 1,000 people were involved in the study, and 380 individuals have been analyzed so far.
Nearly one million measurements show that two-thirds of Philadelphia vowels are in the process of changing. In one instance, the vowel used in the word “ate” has steadily moved closer to the vowel of “eat,” particularly in speakers who were born between 1888 and 1992. The change equally affects people of all educational levels, and men and women alike.
“A ‘snake’ in the grass becomes a ‘sneak’ in the grass as the long vowel ‘a’ is pronounced with the speaker’s jaw in a higher position,” Labov says.The study, begun in 2009, was funded by the National Science Foundation at a cost of $255,363. Or, "too-hunnert-fify-figh-thousan ollas," as someone from Philly might say. The abstract provided by the NSF hints at the practical application of the study by noting that "[d]ialect diversity is one of the major factors limiting the success of automatic speech recognition."
Whaddya, kiddin' me? Thas redicliss! We've been tooken fer a ride. Dat's all.
Note: Thanks to PhillyTalk for some help with spelling.