Perceiving sound change reversal: Age-based dynamics in Chicago's Northern Cities Vowel Shift
Annette D'Onofrio

Sound changes in progress are often hallmark features of regional dialects, becoming linked with local speakers and local social meanings. These changes are can be examined in apparent time through both age-based differences in production, and through listener age differences in perception. However, little is known about the ways in which sound changes that have moved from advancing to reversing in production over time are perceived by community members. In this talk, I explore how listeners of various ages within one U.S. community in Chicago produce and perceive vowels implicated in the region’s characteristic Northern Cities Vowel Shift (NCS), which is undergoing reversal over time. Findings suggest that sociolinguistic perception is not simply a reflection of an individual’s static social position within a community, from which matched production and perceptual patterns are derived. Instead, a listener’s own positionality, experience, and ideas about others in their community, can condition not only their sociolinguistic productions as speakers, but also their expectations as listeners.