A trend and panel study of GOOSE-fronting in Received Pronunciation
2022-04-12, 09:00–09:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 4


A trend and panel study of GOOSE-fronting in Received Pronunciation
The gradual changes in the pronunciation of the /u:/ vowel from a high back to a more central vowel in many varieties of English – a phenomenon often referred to as GOOSE-fronting (or /u/-
fronting) – have received much attention in the sociolinguistic literature (e.g. Mesthrie 2010).
In England, for example, GOOSE-fronting is one of the ubiquitous sound changes observed since the 20th and especially the 21st century, with all studies showing the strength of internal
constraints in this sound change (e.g. Flynn 2012; Baranowski 2017; Jansen 2019).
While the literature has long identified this sound change, a more comprehensive diachronic description of GOOSE-fronting and its evolution from its early stages are missing. In Received Pronunciation (RP), for example, GOOSE-fronting has long been described as a sound change (Jones 1932) in both the community of speakers at large as well as in individual speakers. Yet the evidence is often anecdotal or limited in its time span. A notable exception is Harrington et al. (2000), who showed that F2 in the Queen’s realisation of the GOOSE vowel increased over time. However, we also do not know much about the lifespan trajectory of GOOSE-fronting and the role the strong internal constraints play which we observe in apparent time studies.
The current study is based on The Diachronic Corpus of Spoken English (Mompean et al. in preparation), a corpus compiled from recordings spanning ten decades (the 1920s to 2010s) featuring the speech of RP speakers born between the 1870s to the 1990s. Each recording is 500-1,000 words long. Data from eight speakers per decade (n = 80) are analysed. Hence, this is the most comprehensive corpus of RP to date. A trend study of the gradual changes in GOOSE in this community is conducted. Moreover, a panel study of the use of the high back vowel by Queen Elizabeth II and David Attenborough are included as well. The data for these two speakers stretch across seven decades (the 1950s-2010s).
The recordings were transcribed in ELAN, time-aligned with FAVE-align, and the vowels were extracted by FAVE-extract. Overall, the corpus includes some 3,000 tokens of GOOSE.
The results confirm that GOOSE-fronting has been an active sound change for many decades in RP, with F2 increasing continuously across the 20th century at both community and individual
levels. Moreover, the strength of the internal factors found in other studies is found in this sample as well. On an individual level, we also see a continuous increase of F2 across the lifespan, i.e. the older speakers “are swept away with the historical language change in the community” (Sankoff & Blondeau 2007: 562). Resistance to the sound change or a retrograde movement is not observable which is most likely due to the low indexical load of this vowel.


Baranowski, Maciej 2017. Class matters: The sociolinguistics of goose and goat in
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Flynn, Nicholas. 2012. A Sociophonetic Study of Nottingham Speakers. PhD thesis, University
of York.
Harrington, Jonathan, Sallyanne Palethorpe & Catherine Watson. 2000. Monophthongal
vowel changes in Received Pronunciation: An acoustic analysis of the Queen’s Christmas
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Jansen, Sandra. 2019. Change and stability in GOOSE, GOAT and FOOT. Back vowel dynamics
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Jones, Daniel. 1932. An Outline of English Phonetics. Leipzig: Teubner.
Mesthrie, Rajend. 2010. Socio-phonetics and social change: Deracialisation of the GOOSE
vowel in South African English. Journal of Sociolinguistics 14(1): 3–33.
Mompean et al. (in preparation). The Diachronic Corpus of Spoken English.
Sankoff, Gillian & Hélène Blondeau (2007). Language change across the lifespan: /r/ in
Montreal French. Language 83(3): 560–588.

I work as a senior lecturer in English phonetics and phonology at the University of Murcia, Spain. As a researcher, I keep a wide view, combining topics, insights, and research methods from the fields of phonetics, phonology, cognitive linguistics, corpus linguistics, or L2 pronunciation research, among others.