LING-102 Assignment 1: Site study

In this field project we will be looking at how different groups of Philadelphians pronounce the low-front vowel /ae/ in words like cat, fan, last, hammer, etc. The basic distinction you should pay attention to is whether the /ae/ vowel is pronounced as tense or lax in any given instance.

INSTRUCTIONS: Choose a place where you will be able to sit for a while discreetly observing people's natural speech. Good options include coffee shops, diners, pizza parlors, or long subway/bus rides. With a paper and pen, record all the instances you overhear of words with /ae/ and indicate whether the vowel was tense or lax. Include the following information (it will help if you sketch a chart): If you can't tell if a vowel is tense or lax because it sounds somewhere in-between, mark it as such (with a ? or .5). Also, be careful to record only those words that actually contain an /ae/ vowel, not just any word that's spelled with 'a'. For example, the function words and, that and can are often (but not always) pronounced with a fully reduced schwa vowel rather than with a true /ae/. And for some speakers, words like any and can don't have an /ae/ at all, even when stressed, but rather the lax mid-front vowel heard in red. Your data should only include tokens with a true /ae/.

If you want to practice ahead of time, you can try your hand at coding with this sound file and email me if you have questions.

Collect at least 20 tokens (or as many as you can - ideally 50+). You can do all your observations in the same place or go to a few different places. Some of you may collect a lot of tokens from one or two speakers, while others observe a wide variety of speakers with just a handful of tokens each.

After your first observation, download the class data-entry spreadsheet and enter your data, starting on row 10, as follows: Continue entering data as you visit more places. Email me your spreadsheet by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, July 10.

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