The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics

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Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21

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Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 21, No. 0, pp.936-948
Abbreviation: KASELL
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print) 2586-7474 (Online)
Received 23 Aug 2021 Revised 23 Sep 2021 Accepted 28 Sep 2021

A Quantitative Study of Philadelphia /æ/-tensing
Shinsook Lee ; Mi-Hui Cho
(1st author) Professor, Dept. of English Language Education, Korea University, Tel: 02-3290-2352 (
(corresponding author) Professor, Department of English Language and Literature Kyonggi University Suwon, Korea, Tel: 031-249-9135 (

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The study aims to provide acoustic evidence of Philadelphia /æ/-tensing based on the data collected in fast colloquial speech from 13 native speakers of English residing in Philadelphia. Specifically, the study compares word pairs that contain tense [ ] in a closed syllable and non-tense [æ] in an open syllable before a nasal and a voiceless fricative consonant (e.g., plant vs. planet, pass vs. passive) to investigate /æ/-tensing in terms of the F1, F2, and duration dimensions in fast colloquial speech. The results show that the properties of the conditioning coda consonant (i.e., nasal stops vs. voiceless fricatives) have a great impact on the realizations of /æ/-tensing; tense [ ] in the pre-nasal words was significantly different from non-tense [æ] mainly in F1, while tense [ ] in the pre-oral words was significantly different from non-tense [æ] only in vowel duration. Thus, the results indicate that the realizations of /æ/-tensing in Philadelphia are not manifested in a uniform way across the acoustic measures of F1, F2, and vowel duration. Moreover, prenasal words were significantly different from pre-oral words in terms of the F1 and F2 dimensions but not the vowel duration measure. The results also show that /æ/-tensing varied according to the lexical items investigated. Further, participants’ age affected /æ/-tensing in that older people tended to have lower F2 but show a greater F2 difference between tense [ ] and non-tense [æ] than younger people, which seems to suggest that F2 is more closely related to a social factor of age.

Keywords: Philadelphia /æ/-tensing, conditioning coda consonants (nasals vs. voiceless fricatives), acoustic dimensions (F1, F2 vowel duration), lexical variation, age effect

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