Yod-coalescence involving alveolar consonants before Late Modern English /uː/ from earlier /iu > juː/ is still variable and diffusing in Present-day English. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives both (/tj dj/) and (/ʧ ʤ/) British English pronunciations for tune (/tjuːn/, /tʃuːn/), mature (/mǝˈtjʊǝ/, /mǝˈʧʊǝ/), duke (/djuːk/, /dʒuːk/) and endure (/ᵻnˈdjʊə/, /ɛnˈdjʊə/, /ᵻnˈdʒʊə/, /ɛnˈdʒʊə/, /ᵻnˈdjɔː/, /ɛnˈdjɔː/, /ᵻnˈdʒɔː/, /ɛnˈdʒɔː/). Extensive variability in yod-coalescence and yod-dropping is not recent in origin, and we can already detect relevant patterns in the eighteenth century from the evidence of a range of pronouncing dictionaries. Beal (1996, 1999) notes a tendency for northern English and Scottish authors to be more conservative with regard to yod-coalescence. She concludes that we require ‘a comprehensive survey of the many pronouncing dictionaries and other works on pronunciation’ (1996: 379) to gain more insight into the historical variation patterns underlying Present-day English.
This article presents some results from such a ‘comprehensive survey’: the Eighteenth-Century English Phonology Database (ECEP). Transcriptions of all relevant words located are compared across a range of eighteenth-century sources in order to determine the chronology of yod-coalescence and yod-dropping as well as internal (e.g. stress, phoneme type, presence of a following /r/) and external (e.g. prescriptive, geographical, social) motivations for these developments.