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A vowel shift?

February 14, 2014

For the last few years now, I’ve been noticing a vowel shift which seems to have taken place among a specific set of English speakers: posh girls and young women of the Home Counties. The shift takes the form of replacing the vowel sound /e/ (as in egg) with the vowel sound /a/ (as in apple). Thus, I want to be the very best becomes I want to be the varry bast. Yes is yas, and legs become lags. Recently, I heard a well-brought-up young woman speaking on television about being in japardy, and had to scratch my head before I realised she meant being in jeopardy.

The thing about vowel shifts is, when a vowel changes, the surrounding vowels also have to move along to accommodate it: so if /e/ has become /a/ in this dialect, what has happened to /a/? If leg is now lag, then how would a posh young woman of the Home Counties pronounce lag? I am not sure, but I will listen out and tell you. 

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