Sociolinguistic research across Scotland in recent decades has documented an erosion of the phonemic contrast between /ʍ/ (as in which) and /w/ (as in witch). Based on acoustic phonetic analysis of 1400 realisations produced by 18 Edinburgh women born between 1938 and 1993, I argue that in the context of Edinburgh this is best understood as a complex sociolinguistic variable (HW) encompassing (at least) six fricated and frication-less variants. Realisations vary in type and relative duration of frication, voicing, and glide quality. Bayesian statistical analysis suggests that choice and realisation of variants is conditioned by speaker’s social class, style, and phonetic context. Unlike some prior work, I do not find evidence of ongoing (apparent-time) change or an effect of contact with Southern British English. Fricated variants are most prevalent in formal speech styles and in the speech of middle-class women, while working-class speakers favour frication-less variants.
|Journal||Language Variation and Change|
|Early online date||9 May 2023|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2023|