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Labiodental fronting of /θ/ in London and Edinburgh: a cross-dialectal study1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2013

Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Manchester, Samuel Alexander Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL,,
Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Manchester, Samuel Alexander Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL,,


This study examines the lexical and grammatical diffusion of TH-fronting amongst adolescents in London, where TH-fronting is well established, and Edinburgh, where it is a relatively new phenomenon. Our results reveal that the application of TH-fronting is constrained in Edinburgh in ways that are not relevant for London, and vice versa. Specifically, whereas TH-fronting is sensitive to phonotactic context and prosodic position in Edinburgh, we observe no such effects amongst the London speakers. Morphological complexity, on the other hand, is a significant predictor of TH-fronting in both regions; however, we also find evidence of significant gender differences in the use of fronting in London that do not emerge in our Edinburgh data. We argue that these results attest to the more established nature of TH-fronting in London as compared to Edinburgh. We also address the question of how speech perception influences the emergence and spread of innovative neutralisation phenomena like TH-fronting. The results of this study further highlight the usefulness of a comparative variationist approach to understanding patterns of dialectal variation and change.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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This research was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, grant RES-000-22-3244, Miriam Meyerhoff PI, Erik Schleef Co-I). We thank April McMahon and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on this article. We are also grateful to Patrycja Strycharczuk and Danielle Turton for assisting with corpus handling. We alone are responsible for any failings in this article.


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