Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Hinsdale-Wheaton Isogloss Bundle

A few weeks or maybe months ago there was some discussion over at Language Log about the complex intersection of the terms "blog," "blawg" and the low-back merger, which linguists call the "cot/caught" merger, and which Argotnaut calls the "hottie/haughty" merger, a merger I've touched on here. The complexity I wasn't aware of -- well, one of many -- is that people who distinguish between these vowels don't always agree on which word has which vowel. For instance, the vowels in "Chicago" and "sausage" for me are "caught" vowels, whereas for others they are "cot" vowels.

Thus, when in a recent email my mother coined the term "blahg" -- get it? I had to find out how she pronounced it, so I asked her, ever so innocently (This blog is a secret: don't tell my parents! Or my adviser!) if "blahg" and "blog" are pronounced the same. She said they were.

Does this mean she has the "cot/caught" merger? No, and I can attest she doesn't, nor should she; she's from Barrington, Illinois, what was a small town when she lived there and is now an outer northwest suburb of Chicago, definitively in unmerged territory. Rather, this means that "blog" and, implicitly, "log" in her dialect have the "cot" vowel. Me, I would definitely pronounce "blahg" and "blog" differently -- "log" and "blog" are "caught" words for me.

Thus I propose that there is an isogloss dividing the western suburbs of Chicago from the rest of the Chicagoland area, which I will call the "blahg/blog" isogloss. Since I am making up facts, I will further suggest that this isogloss is in the same place as the one delimiting the occurrence of positive 'anymore' in Chicagoland. So we see that there is actually an isogloss bundle running roughly (why not?) along I-294, or maybe the Cook/Du Page county line. This isogloss reflects cultural differences and historic settlement patterns, though I can't say which ones. Boy, making up facts is fun. Here's a map:























How's that for armchair dialectology? The closest thing to data behind this map comes from my Positive 'Anymore' Unscientific Survey Experiment (PAUSE), which clearly shows that people from the city of Chicago and the inner suburbs think they don't use positive 'anymore' and in fact probably don't, though anymore it's hard to tell.

10 comments:

AJD said...

Whereas, you know, I do have the caught-cot merger, but I'd pronounce blahg and blog differently.

Ben said...

Fascinating -- how are they different? I'm guessing that the vowel in "blahg" is raised, fronted, or both. Am I right?

Queenie said...

OOOH interesting. i have a lot to say on this topic. YAY!

1a. does your mom have PA?
1b. are you sure your mom says 'log' like 'jog'? (for me, log and blog are in different categories.)

2. for me: i'm on the east side of it, but alas:
blahg = blog
and no PA.

3. i am befuddled by your bl/oh/g-ness. is it blog = blawg for you because you generally assign 'og' words to /oh/ (=log, frog) rather than /o/ (=jog)? or is it something particular about the word blog? (Possible reasons: it matters to you that it comes from b+log, or that you started using this word while you were in talking to people who merge it with 'blawg', etc.)

for me, novel 'og' words are in the /o/=jog category-- always. so are 'od' words 'op' words, or whatever else you can think of. i feel like we should agree on this! c'mon, dawg!

here is a test: how would you pronounce 'hugog'?

AJD said...

Fronted, of course. As in father.

Ben said...

Queenie -
1a. My mother was in fact the first person I noticed using PA. Of course, I was fourteen at the time. This means that either she acquired it recently, or that I just never noticed. Probably the latter.
1b. Good point. In fact, my mom does not rhyme log and jog.
2. Oh well. Too bad, (not that I have much at stake here.)
3. I think I didn't hear the word 'blog' until I moved to New York; that might have something to do with it. In fact, just now my wife said something about my bl/oh/g, and she's definitely a cot/caught merging type. Just to be sure, I asked her where the word "blog" comes from to make her say "log," and she said "lahg," as I expected. So I think your second hypothesis is right.
'Hugog' rhymes with 'jog.'

AJD -
Fronted as in 'father', eh? How do you say "blog," then?

AJD said...

Back and round, as in cot!

(Word verification word: "yzrpc", which is probably the name of a Serbian costume designer.)

the chocolate lady said...

Your folks don't know about your blog?

Queenie said...

not to worry about the isogloss bundle.

what we're seeing is clearly a "rhenish fan" south of the cal sag channel.

Ben said...

Chocolate Lady -

Nope, the 'rents don't know. Yet. Funny story, actually. At first I didn't tell them about it because I didn't tell anyone, and now I can't tell them because they'll wonder why I didn't tell them before. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

Queenie -

Yes! The Cal-Sag Fan! I think I read about that somewhere -- has to do with the High Chicago Shift or something...

My word verification word is "bzpepy," which I think is Old Church Slavonic for "lacking pep."

argotnaut said...

Credit where credit is due: Much as I would like to claim ownership, my husband Frinkenstein came up with hottie/haughty. He's often clever that way.

And FYI, I was just in Morris, Illinois, where I heard my dad use positive anymore twice in two days.