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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Daniel Duncan
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
While examples have been clearly attested in the literature, the reversal of a merger is an uncommon occurrence that apparently contradicts principles underlying sound change. Understanding the implications of merger reversal therefore requires understanding of their implementation: whether there was a full merger in the first place, the phonetic path taken to separate the merger, and whether there was a social motivation behind the reversal. I take this approach to a case study of the traditional start-north merger of St. Louis English, which has reversed in recent decades. I show that the merger was a most likely a near merger, the reversal was achieved by raising north and fronting start, and that the reversal, at least the raising of north, was socially motivated. I argue that the data highlights the role of perceptual salience in reversing mergers and illustrates that merger reversal can at times be chain shift-like in appearance, if not execution.
Author(s): Duncan D
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Journal of English Linguistics
Print publication date: 01/03/2022
Online publication date: 01/04/2022
Acceptance date: 08/08/2021
Date deposited: 09/08/2021
ISSN (print): 0075-4242
ISSN (electronic): 1552-5457
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.
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