Young Aucklanders and New Zealand English vowel shifts

Brooke Ross, Elaine Ballard, Catherine Watson

Friday, December 16th, 2022, 1.15pm – 1.45pm


Two distinctive features of New Zealand English are the short front vowel shift, and the articulation of the NURSE vowel. These shifts have resulted in raised pronunciations of DRESS, TRAP, NURSE. Until recently, New Zealand English research has suggested that these changes are ongoing with little regional variation. In the following paper we report findings from a study with Auckland based New Zealand English speakers which suggest this might be changing. Sociolinguistic interviews were recorded with 67 Auckland based participants. Speakers are stratified by age (16-25 and 40+) and gender. Hand-corrected formants from stressed vowels, marked at the vowel target, were analyzed. The analysis looks at over 20,000 monophthong tokens. The results suggest there are differences between the older and younger speakers. The younger speakers have lowered and retracted DRESS, TRAP and NURSE vowels. Although some results are confounded by the effects of aging on the vocal tract. The implication of these results is discussed.