‘I would say [k]ar, yeah. [kʲ]ar, yeah’. Phonological variation and change in Portadown
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This thesis is a study in language variation and change in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Previous studies have shown that certain Belfast features have changed, and that these changes have spread to areas in the Lagan Valley and North Armagh. Among these areas are Portadown and its neighbouring town Lurgan. The thesis has examined three sociolinguistic variables. The first variable is the raising of the traditionally open front DRESS vowel in words like wet and eleven, where the innovative raised form is now predominantly used in Portadown. The second variable is the palatalisation of /k/ and /g/ before open front vowels, where words like car and gas are realised as [kj]ar and [gj]as. Palatalisation is also a traditional Northern Irish feature, which the study shows to be dying out, as it is absent from all younger speakers. The third and final variable is the centralisation of SQUARE words, a more recent Northern Irish feature in which the SQUARE vowel in words like there, hair, and experience is centralised and rhotacised to form a merger with the NURSE vowel. Centralisation is a growing feature in Portadown speech, especially among younger speakers. In Portadown, centralisation occured more than expected in some environments. The changes in these features are discussed in relation to established sociolinguistic theories and results from previous studies, and the study shows that these changes are interpreted and adapted differently in Portadown than in neigbouring Lurgan.