Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Northern City Shift ...

Been meaning to report back on the CD "A Northern City Shift" by the band The Danger. Most readers of this blog know that there's believed to be a big change, called the Northern Cities Shift, in the pronuncation of vowels underway from Buffalo, New York, to about Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Englishes Project has lots of descriptions of it, but think about people saying can like it was spelled with an 'e' (Ken) and hockey like it was hackey.

These guys, from Chicago and Milwaukee, it looks like, should show it massively and I figured the album name might tie in to that somehow. Of course 'a shift' has lots of angles to it that make it work well here -- there's the industrial work angle, the movement from one place to another (working bands like this tend to be on the road a lot, especially regionally), and so on. An operative contacted them asking about the CD name, but never heard back. Now, if Stephen Colbert had contacted them ... .

Well, the CD is a nice piece of work and it'll be played around the Verb household pretty regularly. But there's little audible evidence here that these young folks show NCS (as it's often called). It's mostly that hip singing accent, though a few distinct regional traits show through. So there.

Hmmmm, maybe it's getting to be time for a little non-linguistic content, even non-Upper Midwest content ... Maybe a little favorite CDs of 2006 retrospective? I'm listening to Yo la tengo's new one, "I am not afraid of you and I will kick your ass", and it'd have to be in there ... Stay tuned.


Rosina Lippi said...

Trudgill did a couple studies, oh an eon or so ago, on accent in the Beatles' music. Have you seen that?

What I remember is that in the early music they adopted a lot of U.S. traits tied to certain musicians and musical genres. As they got more famous, they stopped doing that and their own phonologies took over.

There may have been a similar study done of people like Springsteen (who sounds awful southern in a lot of his music) -- or maybe I'm imagining that. Or maybe a student did a paper on it at some point.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh those are pretty classic studies, as you well know. The last I saw on this topic was, in fact, on another blog: http://positiveanymore.blogspot.com/2006/06/trudgill-on-pop-song-pronunciation.html.

Would be nice to have some careful study on this topic ... The Danger seem to occasionally lose coda /r/ even -- hardly a feature of English (among whites, certainly) in this region.