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Segregated vowels: Language variation and dialect features among Gothenburg youth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2019

Johan Gross*
University West


This paper examines the effects of housing segregation on variation in the vowel systems of young speakers of Swedish who have grown up in different neighborhoods of Gothenburg. Significant differences are found for variants of the variables /i:/ and /y:/, which are strongly associated with the local dialect; these two vowels also exhibit coherence. Another vowel pair, /ε:/ and /ø:/, are involved in a coherent leveling process affecting many of the central Swedish dialects but differing in degree of openness in different neighborhoods of Gothenburg. The results show that the variation is not simply a reflection of foreign background, nor of groups of youth adopting single variants; rather, a number of social factors conflate in housing segregation, which interferes with the transmission of more abstract aspects of the local dialect's vowel system to young speakers in certain neighborhoods.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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The author is grateful to Sally Boyd, Therese Leinonen, and James Walker for their comments on earlier versions. I also want to thank Julia Forsberg who helped collect the data and left comments to the text throughout the writing process.


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